NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Mark Kolterman

Sen. Mark Kolterman

District 24

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at mkolterman@leg.ne.gov

Weekly Column – March 23rd

March 23rd, 2018

Last week we celebrated National Ag Week, which gave us the opportunity to recognize the unsung heroes of our State – the farmers and ranchers. It also allowed Nebraskans to recognize the important role that agriculture plays in our everyday lives. On Monday, I joined Governor Pete Ricketts and two of my colleagues, Senator Lydia Brasch and Senator Lou Ann Linehan, at the Pioneer Hi-Bred seed-corn plant north of York. We were also joined by several students from the Agronomy Academy.

Later Monday, I had the opportunity to attend the Seward County Agriculture Recognition Banquet, helping them celebrate the 50th year of their event. It was a great evening, hosted by the Kiwanis Club, the Seward County Agriculture Society, and the Seward County Chamber and Development Partnership. One thing that was especially impressive was the number of FFA students who attended to assist with the meal. These kids are the future of agriculture in our state and District #24, and I was so pleased to see such a vibrant group. I appreciated the opportunity to host Governor Ricketts, Director of Nebraska Department of Agriculture Steve Wellman, and Chair of the Legislature Agriculture Committee Senator Brasch. They all work tirelessly to support and promote agriculture in Nebraska. Congrats to the award recipients – Roy, Dave, and Doug Cast and Families, Bill White, and the many scholarship winners: Bailee Tucker, Colton Hackbart, Andrew Cast, Molly Suhr, Kane Aegerter and Riley Kamphaus. Agriculture has been such an important part of my family’s heritage. It was great to see so many residents of Seward County celebrating agriculture.

It is hard to believe that last Friday was the forty-eighth day of the 105th Legislature session. With only twelve days left in the Legislative session, we still have a lot of priority bills to debate. On Tuesday, we debated a Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee priority bill, LB1005. It addresses the withdrawal of an employer from the County or School retirement plans, which are administered by the State. LB1005 ensures that the withdrawing entity would be financially responsible for all costs to the plan so those costs do not fall on state taxpayers or other plan members or employers. During the floor debate the bill was amended to include several other minor retirement bills. LB1005 eventually advanced to Select File on a 38-1 vote.

During Wednesday’s debate, the Legislature advanced an amended version of the bill creating a super-two rural highway classification and changing the maximum highway speed limits, LB1009. The bill no longer includes a provision to increase the speed limit on the Interstate System to 80 miles per hour. LB1009 would authorize the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) to do the following:

Increase speed limits from 60 mph to 65 mph on any four-lane divided highway that is not a part of the state highway system and any part of the state highway system other than an expressway or freeway;

Increase speed limits from 65 mph to 70 mph on expressways that are part of the state highway system and freeways that are part of the state highway system but not part of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways; and

Increase speed limits from 60 mph to 65 mph on any portion of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways located in Douglas, Lancaster and Dakota counties.

It is important to note that NDOT will not raise speed limits unless it is supported by a traffic and engineering study. LB1009 advanced to Select File on a 35-2 vote.

Also on Wednesday, the Legislature failed to advance the mainline budget bill, LB944, during an extensive second-round of debate, due to a filibuster led by opponents to a provision of the bill restricting the distribution of Title X funds to health clinics that also provide abortion services. Failing to adopt this provision could jeopardize approximately $1.9 million Nebraska receives in Title X funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. An attempt to pass the budget on Friday also failed to overcome the filibuster. It is frustrating that we were unable to approve a budget bill that advanced out of the Appropriations Committee unanimously. I am confident that the Legislature will reject the Washington-style politics that has stalled the budget and adopt it before we adjourn.

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, 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.

March 9th – Weekly Column

March 9th, 2018

The Legislature wrapped up the fortieth day of the session last Friday. With two-thirds of the short legislative session complete, it was the first week of full-day floor debate. We debated several bills, ranging from increased child safety seat requirements to exempting horse massage from State regulation to creating a new sovereign city in the Nebraska panhandle.

Last Wednesday, the Legislature debated the bill I introduced on behalf of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, LB702. It updates Nebraska’s Child Support Enforcement Program to comply with new federal regulations by clarifying that children covered by Medicaid and other needs-based health care programs have health care coverage. LB702 also modifies how child support orders are handled when a parent is incarcerated for more than 180 days. Failing to comply with the mandated changes by October 1, 2018, would subject the state of Nebraska to the loss of $81 million in federal IV-D child support and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funding. LB702 advanced to Select File on a 38-0 vote.

Also on Wednesday, the Legislature gave second-round approval to LB44 and it advanced to Final Reading on a 34-7 vote. LB44 would require some retailers without a physical location in Nebraska to collect state sales and use tax, pending a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June. I supported this legislation because I do not believe it is fair to local retailers that are required to collect sales tax, while out of state online retailers do not have to collect it. This legislation levels the playing field for ‘Main Street’ businesses and allows them to compete with online retailers.

There was a lot of activity last Thursday. My priority bill, LB439, advanced to Final Reading on a 30-0 vote. This is the bill that would allow nurses employed by an assisted-living facility to provide health care services to residents. The Legislature also advanced LB1090 to Select File. Introduced by Senator Smith, LB1090 would nullify the effects of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 had on Nebraska state income taxes. It would prevent a tax increase of an estimated $220 million.

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, 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.

March 2nd – Weekly Column

March 2nd, 2018

As most of you know, one of the unique characteristics of the Nebraska Legislature is that every bill introduced by a senator receives a public hearing. On Tuesday, February 27th, we concluded committee hearings for the 468 legislative bills and 9 constitutional amendments introduced this year. The legislature began full day debate on bills on Wednesday, February 28th. With 23 days remaining in this short legislative session, we still have a lot of important legislation to tackle, including rebalancing the two-year biannual budget.

One of the bills I have been hearing about from constituents is LB1009, a bill that provides a super-two rural highway classification and changes maximum highway speed limits. Upon being introduced by Senator Murante, LB1009 was referred to the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, of which I am not a member. According to the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT), the State Highway Commission requested a review of rural speed zones in response to concerns about the consistency of speed limits across Nebraska.

First, LB1009 adds a new classification for highways that already exist across Nebraska. These are two-lane highways with passing lanes spaced intermittently on alternating sides of the highway to provide opportunities to pass slower moving vehicles. LB1009 would also increase the speed limit on highways by 5 miles per hour and allow the NDOT to increase the speed limit on the interstate from 75 to 80 miles per hour should a traffic and engineering study support it. The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee recently advanced LB1009. Since Senator Hughes prioritized it, we should be debating LB1009 on the floor soon. I am interested in learning more about the rationale for raising speed limits when LB1009 is debated on General File.

Also on Wednesday, the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Board increased its revenue projections for the current fiscal year and next year by about $55 million over its October forecast. The revenue forecast for the next fiscal year FY2018-19 increased $365 million. This includes an estimated $335 million increase in individual income and corporate tax receipts as the result of the federal Tax Cuts and Tax Jobs Act of 2017. LB1090, introduced by Senator Smith, is intended to offset this increase. I will work with my colleagues to prevent this big tax increase.

Last Thursday, March 1st, marked the 151st anniversary of President Andrew Johnson signing the presidential proclamation declaring Nebraska’s statehood. Nebraska was the 37th state admitted to the union and the first after the Civil War. The United States Congress voted to admit Nebraska provided that suffrage was not denied to non-white voters. The bill was vetoed by President Johnson, but it was overridden by a supermajority in both Houses of Congress. To this date, Nebraska is the only state admitted to the Union by means of a veto override.

Every year, the NEBRASKAland Foundation hosts the Statehood Day dinner in the State Capitol Rotunda to recognize Nebraskans who have distinguished themselves and the state. The honorees this year included former University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken, former Governor and U.S. Senator E. Benjamin Nelson, and my twin brother Clark Kolterman.

Clark has dedicated his life to giving back to Seward through his work teaching at Seward High School and the leadership roles in various nonprofit, community and civic organizations. Clark was instrumental in revitalizing the Seward Fourth of July celebration. His leadership efforts helped Seward receive the official designations as Nebraska’s Official Fourth of July City from Governor J.J. Exon and later as America’s Official Fourth of July City – Small Town USA by a resolution of Congress.

It’s hard to imagine the Seward Fourth of July without Mr. Fourth of July himself. It’s been a joy to watch him thrive in leading the celebration for so many years and get so many different people involved. No one more deserving of the Distinguished NEBRASKAlander Award than Clark.

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, 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.

January 26th – Weekly Column

January 26th, 2018

The first full week of the legislative session started with a winter storm that threatened to shut down the legislature. While a handful of my colleagues were unable to make it to the Capitol, Monday’s blizzard was no match for our determination to forge ahead with the peoples’ business of governing. I am grateful for all the road crews from the cities, counties and State who worked long hours to keep our road and highways open. We were fortunate that there were only a handful of serious accidents across Nebraska. And in these situations, Nebraska’s first responders, police, fire and emergency workers, stepped up to aid those in need.

We had several hearings this week on legislative bills I introduced, including two before the Health and Human Services Committee. First, LB 701 updates statutes to support existing telehealth practices in Nebraska. We all know that access to health care practitioners is critically important to the citizens of Nebraska, especially those in medically underserved areas of our state.

The other hearing was on LB 702. I introduced this bill on behalf of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. It updates Nebraska’s Child Support Enforcement Program to comply with new federal regulations. The State of Nebraska would lose over $81 million in federal funding if it fails to comply with the mandated changes by October 1, 2018.

The bill I introduced on behalf of Champion Homes had a hearing before the Urban Affairs Committee. LB707 would allow third-party agencies to inspect manufactured homes produced in York. The Nebraska Public Service Commission currently inspects these homes to insure compliance with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards. It is important to make this change because the inspection fees assessed by the Public Service Commission are more than four times the inspection fees charged by HUD certified third parties. Only ten other state agencies in the country provide this service. Most other states – including those surrounding Nebraska – allow HUD certified third parties to inspect manufactured homes. LB707 would allow Nebraska companies that manufacture homes to compete on a level playing field with out-of-state manufacturers.

The Legislature’s Revenue Committee held the first public hearing on several major tax reform proposals. LB829, commonly referred to as the 50/50 Tax Plan, would provide Nebraska’s property tax payers with an income tax credit equal to 50 percent of the school property taxes they pay. It would offset about 30 percent of the average taxpayers’ total property tax bill. The legislation does not answer questions about how to pay the $1.1 billion price for the proposal. The Revenue Committee will also consider several other proposals in the coming weeks. I know taxes are an important issue to all Nebraskans, and I will work diligently to find solutions to our tax challenges.

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, 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.

January 19th – Second Week

January 19th, 2018

The second week of the legislative session was a short week as we recognized Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This year, the third Monday of January would have been Dr. King’s 89th birthday. With the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights leaders’ assassination this April, we realize the significant contributions Dr. King made in his short lifetime.

Thursday was the tenth and final day for bill introduction this session. There were 468 legislative bills and 9 constitutional amendments introduced this year. During this short 60-day session, it is unlikely that most of these bills will make it to floor debate without being prioritized by a Senator or Committee. A bill may also advance on the consent agenda, if it is not controversial and lacks opposition.

We also heard from Chief Justice Heavican on the State of the Judiciary on Thursday. He reported on efforts to make the state’s court and probation systems more effective. Chief Heavican also provided an update on new problem-solving and re-entry courts.

Last week, one of my colleagues introduced the Irrigation Tax Act, LB 1022. If enacted, farmers would pay a one cent tax for every 10 gallons of ground water used for irrigation. The proceeds would fund the School Aid Fund. Since it generates revenue, this legislation was referred to the Legislature’s Revenue Committee. While I do not serve on this Committee, please know that I strongly oppose this legislation and will work with my colleagues to defeat it should it make it out of the Committee.

This year I introduced thirteen bills including four dealing with retirement issues. Below is a summary of the bills I introduced. Please visit the Nebraska Legislature website if you would like more information about each bill at: www.nebraskalegislature.gov.

LB 698   Changes the Public Employee Retirement Board’s regulation-making authority to permissive for all the plans its administers

LB 699    Technical clean-up bill to insert language omitted from LB 415, which passed last year

LB 700    Removes the obligation of the Nebraska Investment Council to invest the University Trust Fund which is overseen and managed by the University of Nebraska

LB 701 Amends the Uniform Credentialing Act to establish a physician-patient relationship through telehealth

LB 702 Recognizes children covered under Medicaid and other needs-base health care programs

LB 703 Addresses a gap in our medical practice statutes to recognize physicians licensed in another state traveling to Nebraska accompanying a team for an athletic competition or other event

LB 704 Reduces the period of board approved post-graduate medical education requirements for individuals who attended foreign medical schools

LB 705 Changes licensure requirements for an esthetician and an esthetician instructor

LB 706 Clarifies licensing requirements for electrologists

LB 707 Changes provisions of the Uniform Standard Code for manufactured homes

LB 799 Clarifies language in the Surplus Lines Insurance Act

LB 1005  Establishes liability and costs for an entity that elects to withdraw from the County or School Employees Retirement Plan

LB 1127 Creates the Patient Safety Cash Fund

We are continuing to debate bills on General File from last year. Most of the debate this week involved LB 469, the Fantasy Contests Act, and LR 18CA, a constitutional amendment that would decrease the age of eligibility for public office. Both bills were filibustered and received extensive debate. They were both eventually defeated and are finished for the year.

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, 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.

The Clerk’s Office of the Nebraska Legislature is Now Accepting

Applications for Legislative Page Positions

 

The application process for selecting pages for the 2018 Legislative Session is now underway in the Clerk’s Office at the Nebraska Legislature. Legislative pages are local college students employed by the Legislature to respond to senators’ requests for assistance on the Legislative Floor, answer incoming calls to the Legislative Chamber, and possibly assist in committee hearings.

The deadline for submitting an application is Fri., September 29th at 5:00 pm. A letter of recommendation from your state senator is encouraged. College students from District 24 requesting a letter of recommendation from Senator Kolterman should contact our office at (402) 471-2756 or mkolterman@leg.ne.gov.

Applications are available at the link below (PDF) or from the Clerk of the Legislature’s Office, Room 2018, State Capitol, 1445 K Street. For further information on the application process, please contact the Office of the Clerk of the Legislature at (402) 471-2271.

 

Legislative Page Application 2017

This will be my last weekly update for the session, as Speaker Scheer announced that the legislature finished its business earlier than expected and we adjourned sine die on Tuesday, May 23rd, the 86th day of the session.  It is not uncommon to adjourn a few days early.  Officially, the only job of the legislature is to pass a budget.  Now we will wait a few months and watch the tax receipts to see if the budget projections are correct.  If they are not, there could be a possibility of returning this fall for a special session to deal with any budget shortfalls that could occur.

I want to thank everyone that called, emailed, wrote, or visited my office this year.  I can never stress enough how valuable it is to me to listen to the views and opinions of those I represent.  We may not agree on every issue, but hearing from you is valuable insight on what issues effect you the most.  Having open and constructive conversations with those you disagree is something that I think helps make me best represent those I serve.

I had a productive session and am pleased with what the legislature accomplished, but I always feel like we could have done more.  We faced many challenges this year, especially with the budget shortfall due to the ailing agricultural industry.

I would like to have seen a comprehensive tax reform package passed, or at the very least, property tax reduction.  It is my hope that the governor can work with the revenue committee to find a solution to relieve some of the tax burden for hard working Nebraska families.

For my personal bills, the legislature passed nine bills that I introduced, including LB323, a bill that is very personal to me since it helps advocate for the use of palliative care, which is a service that is important to people such as my wife who is battling a terminal illness.  I am also pleased that we passed LB18, a dental hygienist bill that has been in the works for close to ten years, and LB92, my personal priority bill, a bill that extends insurance coverage for the use of telehealth in the state.  During the interim, the Health and Human Service Committee will be taking a closer look and examining the use of telehealth in the state through a legislative resolution that I introduced, LR178.

The legislature passed ten of my retirement bills this year.  Eight of those ten bills were included in LB415, a bill which I have commented in this column extensively about for the past couple weeks.  I introduced a few interim resolutions that will deal with retirement issues, including retired substitute teachers.

Besides interim studies, there is plenty to do this summer and fall before we reconvene next January.  Now that session is over, I look forward to having more time to spend in the community and seeing you all at county fairs, church, town halls, BBQs, and the Seward Fourth of July!

Even though we are not in session, my staff is available to 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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. David 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.

May 12th – LB415 update

May 12th, 2017

Many educators question why I introduced LB 415. I want to share my reasons with you and explain some of the complexities.  I support defined benefit plans as long as they maintain a healthy funded status. I believe they are a valuable benefit for our public employees and I am committed to protecting these plans.  The State of Nebraska contributes $38 million to the School Plan and an additional $7 million to the Class V (Omaha) School Plan every year. Because of the tremendous state budget deficit, there has been some interest in reducing this annual contribution.  I objected to, and prevented an attempt on the floor to reduce this annual appropriation because I knew it would endanger the healthy funding status of this plan.  I also understand that if we don’t make these annual contributions, the State of Nebraska is liable for the funding.

In addition to keeping the plan well-funded, retirement plans must also be kept in compliance with IRS requirements for qualified plans – which includes ensuring there is a “bona fide separation of service” when a member retires.

Currently in the School Plan, intermittent substitute and voluntary service are allowed during the 180-day separation of service period following retirement.  The Nebraska Public Employees Retirement System (NPERS) advised me they are seeing a trend in retirees providing more and more substitute service during this 180-day period – service that is beyond what can be deemed “intermittent”.  As a result NPERS staff are spending significantly increasing staff time to monitor and investigate “intermittent service” in order to keep the plan in compliance with the IRS.  When NPERS has deemed service has not been intermittent, they had to suspend the retiree’s benefit for a period of time—a result that we all want to avoid.

LB 415 was introduced to eliminate retirees from providing substitute or voluntary service during the 180-day separation of service period in order to create a “bright line” to ensure that the IRS-required bona fide separation of service occurs.

The other proposed changes in LB 415 were in response to information provided by the actuary. During last summer’s examination of all the retirement plans, the actuary determined that members are living much longer — which is great news!  But it also means retirement benefits are paid over longer periods than originally assumed. The actuary also informed the Committee that when incentives are offered that encourage plan members to retire early, then benefits are paid over a longer period of time than assumed.  Both of these findings result in increased costs to the plan which is why LB 415 includes the provisions that require future hires to work until at least age 60 and a longer separation of service period for retirees who take a voluntary separation agreement or other form of early retirement inducement.

These issues were studies throughout the interim. I met numerous times with representatives of NPERS, NSEA and NCSA throughout the interim last year to discuss these proposed changes and I also made presentations to NSEA and NCSA groups.

After the hearing on LB 415, I agreed to reduce the originally proposed Rule of 90 to a modified Rule of 85 with a minimum retirement age of 60 and during debate on the bill, I further agreed to reduce the separation of service period from 3 years to 2 years for retirees who take early retirement inducements and allow voluntary service after 180 days.  During debate other alternatives were offered to reduce the 180-day period, but because of the complexity of determining whether or not they would meet IRS requirements, I agreed to eliminate my proposed changes to the 180-day separation of service and to study this issue further over the interim.

I know many educators are concerned about what I proposed in LB 415.  I want to reassure educators, the 180-day separation of service period that allows intermittent substitute and voluntary service remains in effect – there are no changes.

I also want to assure educators that the new Rule of 85 requiring a minimum retirement age of 60 does not apply to any current member or to anyone who is hired prior to July 1, 2018.  Only employees hired on or after July 1, 2018 will need to comply with the minimum retirement age of 60 requirement.  The actuary determined that this change alone is projected to save the School and Class V (Omaha) Plans a little over $100 million over the next 30 years which will help keep the School plan well- funded.

During the interim the Retirement Committee, joined by several other senators, will study these issues under LR 202, and several Education Committee members have introduced LR 130 to study a number of issues raised about substitute teaching.

I appreciate the dedication and commitment of educators and respect the service provided to our communities and our children.  I will continue to work to protect all retirement plans by keeping them in compliance with IRS requirements and making benefit adjustments in order to keep all plans fiscally healthy.  In addition, I will continue to object to any efforts to reduce funding for the School Plan or efforts to convert any of the defined benefit plans to cash balance plans as long as they remain well-funded.  I look forward to working with all educators in these efforts and welcome any questions.

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. David 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.

 

We spent most of the week discussing the state budget.  During the debate there were two main parts of discussion. 1) Title X funding, which is tax dollars that are sent to the states for women’s and low income health services, and 2) the ongoing challenge of how to make up the additional revenue shortfall of around $55 million.

Regarding the first part of the debate, I want to explain why I voted the way I did. There was some language in the budget bill that would have stripped the Title X funding from the budget, even though historically it has been a part of the budget for many, many years. Let me be clear that no Title X money, by federal law, is allowed to go towards abortion services. That being said, however, with the removal of this funding, one traditionally pro-choice health clinic would have lost funding, but so would many low income health clinics that provide services throughout the state. These services are utilized extensively statewide and are sorely needed in some rural areas especially.

In addition to not wanting to see the low income clinics lose their funding, I also had concerns about how this pro-life vs. pro-choice issue was being debated as part of a budget bill, a budget bill that needed to be passed to fund the many programs of our state.

Additionally, I had concerns that if this issue being a part of the budget bill was challenged on its constitutionality, it could cause major issues for us in the future, throwing our budget bill into the courts and tying up the funding of all state programs, possibly shutting down state government.

In an effort to resolve this issue, a motion was made to remove this provision from the state budget bill and move forward with a clean budget, leaving this policy issue to be looked at separately in the future. I voted in support of the motion and also in support of the overall budget. While I understood the premise of those who wanted a certain entity to be defunded, I also didn’t believe this was the right way to go about this.

I have had a few people reach out indicating that they felt I had moved away from my pro-life values. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am pro-life and I will always be pro-life and continue to advocate for pro-life principles. Part of being pro-life is supporting all life, and allowing the low income clinics to continue serve under-privileged clients is one way to support their health and well- being.

The second part of the discussion relating to where to come up with the additional $55 million needed was also challenging. I, like many of my constituents, believe we need to do whatever we can to cut waste and create efficiency in state government. Senator Stinner, chair of appropriations, and his committee have done a great deal of work setting priorities and finding places to reduce spending. Some members of the body strongly believe we need to cut more to make up for the $55 million shortfall. While I agree that we need to continue to look at cuts, I am also concerned that across the board cuts could result in major disruption of critical services. We need to be careful as we proceed and find the right balance of cuts in a prioritized manner, while continuing to fund essential state services. The next few weeks will be challenging, and we will do what we can to make the best decisions we can for our state.

I also want to take a moment to address Senator Linehan’s LB651 and her motion to pull the bill from committee.  I supported Senator Linehan’s motion to pull the bill from committee because I believe LB651 is an issue that needs to be discussed by the legislature.  That being said, I do not support the bill in its current form and do not plan to vote to advance it.  I received many calls and emails regarding this bill, so I wanted to make my position clear.

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. David 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.

 

April 21st – Taxes

April 21st, 2017

This week the legislature debated two tax reform proposals, LB640 and LB461. I  support both pieces of legislation and see LB640 as the first bill to advance from the Revenue Committee in quite some time that can provide significant property tax relief for Nebraskans. If this bill does not pass, most likely no bill will pass with significant property tax relief this year. The bill did not move forward when debated, but it remains on General File and it’s possible it could move forward this year.

Alternatively, other proposals have suggested the solution is to raise sales taxes on hard working Nebraska families, using that revenue to reduce property taxes. I, along with the Governor, do not support this alternative and will support the Governor should that proposal move forward. The Governor has committed to veto a sales tax increase if placed on his desk, and I would uphold a veto.

The major tax reform bill being debated is LB 461.  I have had constituents indicate that LB 461 is not the ideal tax reform package, as it does not provide the level of property tax relief they feel is needed, and because it includes an income tax relief component. In order to move any tax relief packages forward, however, we need to build a coalition of State Senators who have a variety of perspectives and interests represented in their constituencies.  Urban State Senators tend to hear from their constituents in urban areas the importance of income tax relief, and rural State Senators hear from their areas that property tax relief is paramount.  A package that includes components of each has the best chance of advancing and I support working collaboratively on both of these issues to move forward a reform package.  Lowering both property and income taxes is good for the State and creates a climate for economic growth and prosperity.

The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports LB461, stating that Nebraska’s reliance on income taxes has grown too large, as 60% of state revenue comes from income taxes. Taxes in Nebraska are high and we have been paying too much for far too long. This bill will provide tax relief for all Nebraska taxpayers, while not shifting the tax burden from one group of citizens to another. LB461 encourages business expansion and retention, and assists in recruiting qualified workers for our growing state. It also protects agriculture at a time when ag property taxes are too high and commodity prices are too low. Simply, LB461 helps working families keep more of their hard-earned money.

LB461 is the most comprehensive tax relief package that the legislature has seen is several years. Amongst other things, LB461 collapses the number of income tax brackets in Nebraska from 4 to 3, reduces the top tax bracket starting at $29,830 per year from 6.84% to 5.99%, and gives more tax credits to low-income families by increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit by 20 percent.

For agricultural land taxes, LB461 caps aggregate ag land valuation growth at 3.5% annually, changes ag land valuation from market-based to income potential-based, and reduces ag land property taxes by 12% statewide.

Opponents are concerned whether the state will be the next Kansas and won’t have the revenue to pay for core government functions such as education, criminal justice, and road maintenance. However, through the use of revenue “triggers,” LB461 is designed to prevent tax cuts from taking place unless ample revenue is also available to fund government services. If state revenue is not projected to grow by the required amounts, the tax cuts will not take effect that year.

LB461 will attract companies and create jobs, help farmers and manufacturers, and protects K-12 education by investing about $30 million annually into the state aid formula and adding equalization aid to about 40 additional school districts. It is time for the legislature to enact tax reform and make this great state even better.  If you have additional ideas on how we can fix our tax system, please contact me and share them.  We’re always open to ideas on how we can provide tax relief to all areas of our state.

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. David 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. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

 

Sen. Mark Kolterman

District 24
Room #2004
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2756
Email: mkolterman@leg.ne.gov
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