NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. Mark Kolterman

Sen. Mark Kolterman

District 24

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.

 

LINCOLN — The Legislature abandoned a proposal Wednesday that would have barred newly retired teachers from working as substitutes.

Instead, lawmakers will undertake an interim study of the issue.

State Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward proposed the study, as well as an amendment stripping restrictions on post-retirement employment from Legislative Bill 415.

The amendment resolved an issue that provoked controversy during first-round debate. Lawmakers adopted the amendment before giving the bill second-round approval. As advanced, LB 415 makes several less contentious changes in state retirement plans, including raising the retirement age for school employees who start work after July 1, 2018.

School employees now can retire at age 55 if they have accumulated 30 years of service, which is called the “rule of 85.” Under the bill, future employees will be able to retire at age 60 if they have 25 years of service.

Kolterman, chairman of the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee, said the change would help the school retirement plan financially because it would mean paying out benefits for fewer years.

His amendment removed provisions from LB 415 that would have restricted school employees from working or volunteering in schools after they retired.

The original bill would have required teachers to stay out of the classroom for 180 days after retirement. Those who took early retirement buyouts would have had a three-year waiting period.

Kolterman had argued that the restrictions would ensure compliance with federal tax laws, which require a clear end to a person’s employment, and would discourage retirees from drawing a pension while going back to work.

But the Nebraska State Education Association and representatives of several school districts said the proposals would have worsened a shortage of substitute teachers.

Kolterman’s study resolution calls for examining the federal tax law, retirement administration challenges and substitute teacher service.

mstoddard@owh.com, 402-444-1000 x6616

http://www.omaha.com/news/legislature/nebraska-legislators-advance-bill-to-raise-teacher-retirement-age-after/article_8c5a60a9-5f7f-538b-8932-2cca0772d08a.html

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.

 

One of the unique components of the Nebraska Legislature is that each and every bill introduced by a senator receives a public hearing.  During the long session, which is this year, committee hearings typically last until the middle or end of March.  During the period when we hear committee hearings, the legislature only debates bills on General File in the morning, and the committee hearings are conducted in the afternoon.  Committee hearings for all bills ended on March 23rd, and on March 28th, the legislature began full day debate on bills.

Some bills are pretty cut and dry and can advance in only a matter of minutes.  Bills that are filibustered can be debated for up to six hours on General File before a cloture motion vote is taken.  We have a lot of work left to do and we will soon begin our late night schedule which means that a legislative day can last until 11:59pm, though a typical let night ends around 8 or 9pm.

To date, five of my bills passed the legislature and were signed into law by the Governor.  Three bills are on Final Reading, one bill is on Select File, and nine bills are on General File.  Only a handful are still in committee while we discuss what needs to be improved in order to advance them to General File.  Some of these improvements may not happen this year, and we will work with stakeholders over the interim to find what needs to be changed so that the best bill is brought forward that everyone compromises on. I think it is imperative to discuss bills openly with everyone involved to find agreement, and not jam legislation down the throats of those opposed to a bill.

Monday, April 10, marks the 62 day of the 90 day session, and we are a little over two thirds of the way finished with the long session.  We still have to discuss the budget and budget gap, property taxes and tax reform, internet sales tax, and many other senator and committee priority bills.  I am always interested to hear your opinions on issues that concern you.  We may not agree on all bills, but I welcome your feedback so that I can do my best to serve the people that elected me to office.

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.

 

My office receives a good amount of correspondence regarding the Keystone XL pipeline, so I wanted to address that issue with you.  I have always been supportive of the pipeline, and recently, I signed a bipartisan letter from 33 members of the Nebraska Legislature to the Public Service Commission in support of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Having closely monitored the proposed project and reviewed TransCanada’s safety and environmental record in our state for the past six years, I believe they have demonstrated a strong commitment to operating responsibly in our state.  In conversations with Nebraskans along the existing Keystone pipeline route (Cedar, Wayne, Stanton, Colfax, Butler, Seward, Saline, Jefferson and Platte Counties) I have found enthusiasm for both the manner in which the company has operated and the property tax dollars its project has contributed since 2010.  I have spoken with friends and neighbors in Seward County that have pipeline in their property, and they have mentioned how easy it is to work with TransCanada when putting land back to its original state, like they were never there.

A large majority of Nebraskans agree with this view considering recent media reports indicating more than ninety percent of landowners along the proposed Keystone XL route have already voluntarily agreed to easements, most for figures at or above market value.  I am particularly pleased that these agreements, as they appear to cover crop losses and inconveniences which my constituents may experience during the anticipated construction time.

The proposed Keystone pipeline will be extensively monitored with checkpoints for oil spills.  It will be better than the current pipeline, and much safer than filling trucks and rail cars with oil, and then sending them on our roads and tracks.  The construction of the pipeline will create good jobs along the route, and lower the electrical rates of local electric systems.  In 2016, Seward County alone billed TransCanada pipeline almost a half million dollars for property taxes.  It was also announced that the latest route proposal would shift slightly west around the Seward County wellhead protection area.

I share your desire to protect the quality of water in our state.   The NDEQ has taken the proper steps to ensure protection of the Sandhills region and Ogalalla Aquifer by endorsing a route which avoids the Sandhills region and the areas of northern Nebraska which are home to fragile soils.

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.

 

A bill that is receiving a lot of interest across the state and media is LB632, an omnibus bill that handles many liquor control issues.  I have been contacted by several constituents and people from all over Nebraska who are concerned with this proposed legislation. The craft beer brewers did an outstanding job of raising awareness at the grassroots level by encouraging their consumers to contact state senators.  Since I have received my fair share of emails and calls, I want to address the issue in this column.

For a little history, I was a member of the General Affairs Committee last year when we passed LB1105.  That bill contained language that allows for craft brewers to operate up to five retail locations in addition to where they brew beer.  Several breweries have built or have plans to build these retail locations in cities where they are not located.  This year’s LB632 strips out the language that allows for these additional retail locations.  Both bills have the same sponsor, so it is puzzling to me why he introduced a bill this year that undoes what he wanted the legislature to pass last year, especially since it was overwhelmingly passed and hailed by the craft brewers.

I am not sure the reasoning behind this bill other than big, out of state breweries are trying to stifle growth of these small, locally owned breweries.  That it is not something I can support.  I do not support the bill as it is currently written for several reasons. LB632 would harm economic growth and kill jobs, which is a terrible thing to do when the state is facing a budget shortfall.  Zipline Brewing Company based in Lincoln currently is constructing their second non brewery retail location in downtown Omaha that will employ about 25 full and part time employees. That is in addition to construction workers, plumbers, electricians, and others involved in the construction of the building. LB632 would prevent a brewery like Kinkaider or Infusion from building a retail location in a city like York or Stromsburg.  LB632 could also give pause to any home brewer thinking about starting their own brewery.  It does not make sense to make things more difficult for entrepreneurship for anyone trying to grow a business, not just brewers.

This past week, I met with the owners of Bottle Rocket Brewing, a privately owned and operated brewery located in Seward.  We discussed LB632 and concerns that they have regarding the bill.  It was a fun visit and they recorded it for social media.  You can view our visit on the Bottle Rocket YouTube channel or on their Facebook page.

After speaking with a few of my colleagues on the General Affairs Committee, it does not appear that this bill will advance out of committee in its current form.  I hear an amendment is being drafted to reinsert the language that allows for the retail locations, which has been the objective of the craft breweries.  I commend them for their interest in the legislative process and for getting involved with a piece of legislation that will impact them.

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.

February 10th – LB30

February 8th, 2017

Since 2014 the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee has required political subdivisions with plans funded less than 80% to appear before the Committee and describe the circumstances that led to the underfunding and the entity’s plan to improve solvency and reach full funding.

The past two years I have heard the presentations on the metropolitan and primary class city Police and Fire Retirement Plans and have become increasingly concerned.   For example, the Omaha Police & Fire Plan has over $600 million in unfunded liability and are 51% funded – which hasn’t changed that much in the past number of years.

I introduced LB 30 in order to provide secure retirement benefits for current and future police and fire employees in the metropolitan and primary class cities, and to keep their pension plans solvent and sustainable.  We had an excellent hearing this week with 20 invited testifiers which included police officers, firefighters, city council representatives, and representatives of the Platte Institute, Reason Foundation and Retirement Security Initiative.

I appreciate the service provided by these brave public servants who risk their lives every day for all of us.  It is not my intent to take any retirement benefits away from current plan members.  My motive for introducing this bill is to ensure that current plan members receive what is promised them.  I believe that a promise is a promise.  I also want to ensure that new members receive an adequate and sustainable pension that is affordable for our metropolitan and primary class city taxpayers.

LB 30 requires cities of the primary and metropolitan class to place new police officers and firefighters in a cash balance retirement plan beginning on an unspecified date.  LB 30 also allows metropolitan and primary class cities to provide a supplemental retirement plan to provide an additional benefit since firefighters and police officers in these cities do not participate in social security.

Cash balance plans are hybrid defined benefit plans because they guarantee an interest credit rate.  Each employee has an individual account which consists of employee contributions and employer contributions (if vested) with an interest credit that increases the value of the account.  Investment losses do not affect the members’ account balances – investment risks are borne solely by the employer.

What I am proposing in LB 30 is not a defined contribution plan which is like a 401(k) where the member assumes all the risk of any investment losses. These are the types of plans generally offered in the private sector for employees.

A cash balance plan is a solid and reliable pension plan. In Nebraska, state and county employees have been in cash balance plans since 2003.  These plans are solidly structured and were able to sustain the 27% investment losses in 2008 and 2009 without requiring any additional funding by the state.

It is clear to me that our metropolitan and primary class cities are struggling financially to pay their ongoing funding obligations to the plans.  This level of funding does not appear to me to be sustainable over the long-term.

I appreciate all the comments and written testimony presented at the hearing on LB 30 and I will continue to meet and work with all interested parties to seek a workable resolution to this problem.

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.

 

January 3rd – Budget

February 3rd, 2017

The legislature began discussing the state budget this week.  I have mentioned in previous columns about the $900 million budget shortfall the state faces over the next two years.  The first budget bill we debated was LB22, a bill introduced by Speaker Scheer for Governor Ricketts.  LB 22 contains the Governors recommendation for changes to the existing FY2016-17 appropriations as well as various fund transfers as part of his FY2016-17 budget adjustments.  LB22 eliminates over $137 million from the current budget.  I support this bill and do not feel that raising taxes to shrink the gap is in the best interest of Nebraskans.  I also support the Governor’s ban on nonessential out of state travel and state agency hiring freezes for non-critical positions.

Some people have asked me how Nebraska got into such a deep hole.  The main reason is agriculture commodities prices are extremely stressed to the tune of several hundred million dollars in Nebraska alone.  We also face lower than expected tax receipts.

This is a very difficult session for everyone, including lawmakers, tax payers, programs, and families.  I have met with many people, organizations, associations, and groups that have asked to be spared from budget cuts.  If we said yes to everyone then we would not save any money.  As difficult as it is to say, we must all tighten our belts and cuts need to be made across the board.  We may also have to consider dipping into the cash reserve fund.  At this point, almost all options are on the table, except for tax increases.

While examining the budget this year, I look at the same way I am sure the most of you do.  If your household budget suddenly needed to be trimmed significantly, where would you make the cuts?  Nebraska statute mandates a balanced budget each year, so we are not able to kick the can down the road by financing programs on credit.  For the most part, if any new legislation carries a fiscal note, more than likely, it will not pass the legislature this year.  As lawmakers, we will do our best to provide essential state benefits as we address the current budget situation.

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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