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Each morning during the legislative session, the Presiding Officer asks everyone in the chamber to rise for the opening prayer lead by the Chaplain of the Day. Over the years, leaders from many different faiths have served as the Chaplain. Last Monday, we were blessed to have Reverend Monsignor Daniel Seiker, Assistant Spiritual Director at the St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, lead us in prayer. It was very encouraging to have him join us in praying for the leaders of our State. I would invite any faith leader interested in serving as Chaplain of the Day to contact my office for additional details.
Last Tuesday, the Legislature commenced debate on the proposed adjustments to the State’s budget among others. Speaker Scheer introduced LB944 at the request of Governor Ricketts. It included the Governor’s 2018 mid-biennium budget adjustment recommendations for state operations, aid and construction programs, provides for transfers, and modifies intent language and earmarks accompanying appropriations approved last year during the 2017 Legislative Session. These adjustments are necessary to rebalance the two-year biannual budget due to increased child welfare costs, a lower federal Medicaid match rate, and a significant reduction in revenue forecasts resulted in a budget shortfall of roughly $210 million.
While I do not serve on the Appropriation Committee, I followed their progress closely since the start of the session. The Committee held numerous public hearings to develop their revised budget proposal and advanced LB944 out of the committee on a unanimous vote 9-0. While most of Tuesday was spent debating the revised budget on General Final, the Legislature adopted the amended version and moved it to Select File.
On Wednesday, the Revenue Committee met to consider a revised version of LB947, the comprehensive property and income tax reduction bill Senator Smith introduced on behalf of Governor Ricketts. In addition to retaining the state’s current property tax relief credit program, the revised bill adds a refundable state income tax credit starting at 2 percent of property taxes paid on agriculture land and would gradually rise to 20 percent. The total relief for agriculture land would eventually reach 30 percent. For homeowners, the credit would begin at 1 percent of property taxes paid and gradually increase to 20 percent. The maximum credit for homeowners will be $500. LB947 would also reduce the corporate income tax rate from 7.81 percent to 6.84 percent over two years. It also includes an additional $10 million for job training. At this point in the session with only 15 days left, we are waiting to see what, if any, major tax reform bill advances out of the Revenue Committee.
Even though I do not serve on the Revenue Committee, I have worked with my colleagues to lower property taxes. They are too high and impact every individual who owns property, from our retired senior citizens to our farmers and ranchers who depend on their land to make a living. In reality, there is no quick fix. The only way we will be able to achieve meaningful property tax relief is through building a broad coalition of Senators representing both urban and rural interests. This is necessary because my colleagues representing urban communities will tell you that they are looking for income tax relief. A package including both property tax and income tax relief has the best chance of becoming law.
As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Todd and Katie 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 any issues that you may need assistance.