The 2015 legislative session has now come to a close. During the session, the legislature addressed and fixed number of key issues facing our state. Though progress was made, we still have a lot of work to do in order to continue moving Nebraska forward. I would like to use this article as an opportunity to give a synopsis of this year’s session.
The legislature increased the property tax relief credit fund by $60 million per year. It now totals over $400 million over the state’s biennium – our two year budget, but we have still not reached a long term solution to fix our state’s high property taxes. I believe the key to fixing this problem is that Nebraska needs to reform the way it funds K-12 education, shifting away from the increased reliance on Ag land, which is currently increasing 15% or more in their valuations every year. The legislature is going to study this issue during the interim, but I still need your help providing input about this problem. You, the taxpayer, are the most knowledgeable about the impact of high taxes and property valuations, let me know your thoughts on how we can help fix this problem.
Prison reform was another major accomplishment of this session. It was absolutely necessary to address the issue, considering the state’s problem with overcrowded prisons. LB605 was passed and signed by the Governor. This bill was a compromise and joint effort established by the Legislature, Governor, Attorney General, county attorneys, and law enforcement officials. It creates a path toward a more cost-effective way to handle nonviolent criminals with alternatives such as drug court and probation. By doing so, we avoid creating an environment where violent repeat offenders share living space with nonviolent criminals, this greatly limits their influence. By doing so, we avoid creating an environment where violent repeat offenders share living space with nonviolent criminals, greatly limiting their influence.
Balancing the budget was a major accomplishment this session. We are holding state spending down to a 3.1% growth rate over the next two years. This is one of the lowest non-recession budgets in Nebraska’s history and will set the state up for major tax relief in the near future. If revenues continue to come in as forecasted at roughly 5% to 6% and the state continues to keep growth at 3.1%, the difference between the two figures will serve as tax relief to Nebraska’s citizens.
While these accomplishments are moving the state in the right direction, we still need major reform in state government. Much of this is directed by you, the watchful citizen. Please continue to contact my office with your thoughts and concerns about how to improve our state government. During this interim period, I will be travelling to every corner of the district and trying to connect with as many of you as possible so I can bring your thoughts and concerns to Lincoln.
As always, I am honored by the faith that you, the voters of District 24, have placed in me. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. You may continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman For Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature. My office in the State Capitol is Room 1115, which I share with my colleague Senator Bob Hilkemann from Omaha. Stop by anytime. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Kenny Zoeller, my Legislative Aide, and Katie Quintero, my Administrative Aide, are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address your concerns, thoughts, and needs.
Senator Mark Kolterman