NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Sen. Mark Kolterman

Sen. Mark Kolterman

District 24

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​As the state prepares for Americans fleeing an outbreak of a deadly disease in China, the University of Nebraska Medical Center pitched state lawmakers Thursday on an audacious plan to make Nebraska the national destination for all-hazard responses.

The proposed Nebraska Transformational Project, or NExT, would stand up a new teaching hospital and research and education tower on UNMC’s campus in Omaha in partnership with state and federal agencies to respond to crises like natural disasters to infectious diseases.

At an estimated price tag of $2.6 billion, the NExT project would also potentially be the largest economic development project in Nebraska’s history to date.

Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward, who introduced a bill (LB1084) triggering a state investment of $300 million if funding conditions by the federal government and private donors are met, called the project “a once-in-a-generation opportunity” to transform the state.

“This idea, this bill, this appropriation, this incentive is bigger than any of us in this room,” Kolterman told the Legislature’s Revenue Committee on Thursday.

The project stems from a call for increased surge capability and capacity of the National Disaster Medical System included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act — an expansion of the U.S.’s capability to treat patients affected by disease outbreaks or injured in biological, chemical or nuclear disasters.

The five-year program, managed by the U.S. Department of Defense, requires a report be submitted to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and House of Representatives within 180 days detailing “no fewer than five major aeromedical transport hub regions” that could serve as a demonstration site.

A spokesman with the Department of Defense said there have been no decisions made on where to locate the program. It wasn’t clear what other sites, if any, are also in consideration.

Kolterman and UNMC Chancellor Jeff Gold said Nebraska has a track record of success in combating infectious diseases, as when it successfully treated several patients infected with the Ebola virus in 2014-15, and has effectively managed public-private partnerships in the past like the $323 million Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, which opened in 2017.

Since taking on a global leadership role in combating Ebola, UNMC has trained thousands of health care professionals around the world in best practices for treating patients carrying contagious diseases and has secured millions more in federal funding for research and to set up a national quarantine center.

If the Department of Defense chooses UNMC to be one of the five sites and awards at least $1 billion in federal funding to start construction, Kolterman’s bill requires a kick-in of at least $300 million from private investment before the state would be required to contribute funding.

The UNMC chancellor told the Revenue Committee, where the bill was heard because it establishes an incentive rather than directing an appropriation, a demonstration of urgency by the Legislature could help push Nebraska to the front of the line.

“Your support as a state government is essential to the success of these partnerships,” he said.

That could be key to creating nearly 42,000 jobs in all, including 8,700 permanent jobs at the medical center, generating $211 million in new state tax revenue and adding $1.3 billion to Nebraska’s economy over the next decade.

Lawmakers on the committee, who are also shaping legislation creating new tax incentives for businesses and overhauling Nebraska’s property tax statutes, focused on the scope of the project.

“How critical is the state match to obtaining this facility?” Sen. Tom Briese of Albion asked.

Gold said the NDAA specifies a preference for public-private partnerships in how it will select the site, and that the project was scaled down to “the most conservative numbers” UNMC felt comfortable bringing to the Legislature and asking the private sector to commit to.

“Once determination of eligibility is made, we would like to say we have commitments from the state and private sector,” he said.

Gold was also bullish on the prospects of private philanthropy being drawn to the project: “Frankly, they know a winner when they see one, and they like to invest in success.”

Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte questioned Gold about who would own and operate the building, as well as if the project would benefit Nebraskans outside the Omaha area.

Once completed, the center would be owned by NU and make Omaha a health care destination in the U.S. and international communities, Gold responded, while NExT would also create opportunities for Nebraskans studying at UNMC, many of whom later work in health clinics and hospitals across the state.

The Nebraska, Omaha and Lincoln chambers of commerce also back the NExT project, which they see as a vehicle for job creation and attracting and retaining top talent in the state.

Leslie Anderson, the CEO of the Bank of Bennington who spoke on behalf of the Omaha and Lincoln chambers, said NExT was exactly the type of economic development project to spur growth in H3 jobs — high-skill, high-demand, and high-wage professions.

And Bryan Slone, president of the Nebraska State Chamber, said in addition to serving a global, local and strategic defense need, the NExT project would result in “game-changing” growth in a major economic sector in Nebraska.

On Thursday, no one testified against Kolterman’s bill, which has more than 30 co-signers from across the political spectrum.

Bob Grothe, manager of the Iron Workers Local 21, testified in a neutral capacity, saying while the union representing construction workers in 73 counties in Nebraska was in favor of the project, it also wanted to ensure the estimated 33,000 construction jobs stayed local.

“This really worries me,” he told the committee. “Not only the dollars, but, as a construction worker, you take a lot of pride in everything we’ve done. I want to see language ensuring Nebraskans will build the project.”​​

After the hearing, Gold said the last major project at UNMC — the Buffett Cancer Center — was designed and built by local firms, adding the university prioritizes companies that can keep the work local.

The Revenue Committee did not take any action on the proposal on Thursday. Gold said a decision from the Department of Defense could come this spring.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

https://journalstar.com/news/local/education/lawmakers-hear-once-in-a-generation-opportunity-pitch-for-unmc/article_4afe709c-9a77-571d-a2bf-1a23e8bcdd94.html

Weekly Column – January 31st
January 31st, 2020

As the first couple of weeks of the new legislative session winds down, I would like to introduce you to a bill that I am deeply honored to carry this year on behalf of the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

This year, I introduced LB 1084, a bill that supports a transformational project that, if successfully implemented, will be a game-changer for the State of Nebraska and its economy.  I am joined in support of this bill with 31 of my colleagues, an indication of how this project adheres with the goals of creating high-skill, high-demand, high-wage jobs and growing our state.

The Nebraska Transformational Project, commonly referred to as the NExT, project, allows for significant expansion to the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Nebraska Medicine through a joint partnership with the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.  Both Nebraska Medicine and UNMC currently employ thousands of skilled employees, educate our health care providers, and advance scientific research.

In recent years, the University of Nebraska Medical Center has become a much bigger player in national conversations.  Recently, UNMC has cared for patients suffering from the Ebola virus in one of the nation’s few Biocontainment Units and has brought in tens of millions of dollars in grant dollars to support training and facilities on ways to manage infectious diseases and sharing its expertise globally.

Based on a preliminary estimate of this $2.6 billion public-private investment, a Tripp Umbach study conservatively reports that the NExT initiative will create a total economic impact of $7.6 billion during construction of the project, over the next decade.  The project could generate employment directly and indirectly for 41,655 Nebraska workers over the next decade which includes nearly 33,000 construction-related jobs and 8,700 permanent jobs.  An estimated $211.8 million in state tax revenue over that 10-year period would also be created. This would be in addition to local government tax revenue.  By adding an additional $1.3 billion annually to the state economy when the project is fully operational in 2030, conservatively generating $38.2 million in annual state tax revenue.

I am honored to sponsor LB1084 with the support of at least 31 of my other colleagues because this is a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity for us to catapult Nebraska into the national and international scene, boost our economy and further position us to be a world leader in infectious disease and all-hazards training and response.

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. Tyler 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.

For Immediate Release – September 23, 2019 – 5:15 p.m.
Contact: Mark Kolterman (402)-641-8471

I was notified today that four licensed skilled nursing centers in Nebraska announced they are closing. These facilities are Crestview Care Center in Milford, Utica Care Center in Utica, both in District #24, and Mory’s Haven in Columbus, and Blue Hill Care Center in Blue Hill.

It is my understanding that these facilities have set a closing date of November 21, 2019, but will not officially close their doors until each resident is safely transferred to an appropriate facility or other setting that matches them in terms of quality, services, and location, while also taking into consideration the needs, choice, and best interests of each resident.

These four facilities, purchased by Azria Health last week, are notifying affected team members, residents, and family members of the closing, and have started assisting residents and their family members in finding a new facility for the residents. They have also started work to help their team members explore new employment opportunities.

Upon learning of these closures, I asked my staff to pull together a meeting with the Department of Health and Human Services so that I can better understand the process that is to follow in the upcoming days, weeks, and months. I also reached out to local economic development organizations to explore potential employment opportunities for those impacted by the closures. If you or a family member has been impacted by these closures and are in need of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me at mkolterman@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2756. I will do everything I can to assist families as they transition the care of their loved ones to a new facility or assist employees as they look for new jobs.

The closure of these four facilities are a continuation of an unfortunate trend and will add to the volatility of access to long-term care services across the state. This closure will affect 205 state-licensed beds across the four facilities and will impact approximately 240 employees. As a former member of the Health and Human Services Committee, I was well-aware of the challenges faced by our local care centers – and am committed to working with my colleagues to find long-term solutions to address the increasing problem facing some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Thank you for your patience as we continue to work through these issues. Again, please reach out to me if I can assist in any way.

Senator Kolterman will be participating in two Legislative Forums sponsored by the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce on Mon., September 30th.

 

Nebraska Chamber Forums – Seward
7:30am-9am
Seward Civic Center Basement
Contact: Seward County Chamber & Development Partnership, (402) 643-4189

 

Nebraska Chamber Forums – Henderson
Noon to 1:00 p.m.
Perks Cafe
Contact: Kelsey Bergen, (402) 723-4228

 

These events provide an opportunity to get a firsthand look at the legislative process, learn the issues and meet elected representatives.

 

The Nebraska Department of Transportation is holding a public information open house meeting on the proposed improvements to U.S. Highway 81 (US-81) in Polk County. The meeting will be held at the Viking Center, 118 East 3rd Street, Stromsburg, Nebraska on Tues., July 30th from 4pm to 6pm.

All interested parties are invited to attend.

This project is in the design stage. Public input is being sought. Please refer to the attached Notice of Public Meeting for more details.

 

Send comments or questions to:
Sarah Soula
NDOT Public Involvement
1500 Highway 2, PO Box 94759
Lincoln, NE 68509-4759
sarah.soula@nebraska.gov

 

For more information:
Wes Wahlgren
NDOT District 4 Engineer
211 N. Tilden St., PO Box 1488
Grand Island, NE 68802-1488
wes.wahlgren@nebraska.gov
308-385-6265

 

dot.nebraska.gov/projects/

 

Attachment:

NDOT Project – Notice of Public Meeting

The Clerk’s Office of the Nebraska Legislature is Now Accepting Applications for Legislative Page Positions

The application process for selecting pages for the 2020 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., October 4th 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 2020

As we approach the end of the legislative session, there have been two issues that have dominated discussion.  One of those issues is property tax relief.  The other issue is tax incentives.

I have shared previously that both issues have been a high priority for me. As a member of the Revenue Committee, I have sat through numerous hearings on issues related to taxes and revenue and the message we have heard has been overwhelmingly consistent – the state needs property tax relief and they need it soon.  Similarly, we have heard consistently that growing our state’s economy and creating opportunities to keep our young people here is critical to our state’s future.

Unfortunately, neither issue will be moving forward this year.  I wish I could articulate the specifics of why this is not the case, but unfortunately, it seems that the Nebraska legislature has moved more in the direction of the federal government, having moved away from collaboration and cooperation, and more towards polarization.

Our state is at a crossroads and these two issues must be addressed if we are to continue to grow and thrive as a state.  Agriculture is in a world of hurt.  Commodity prices are down.  The cost of inputs is going up. Our farmers are facing an uncertain future due to tariffs and a potential trade war. On top of that we have high property taxes.

I would contend, however, that our business growth that we have seen in this state has been helpful in offsetting some of the negative trends we have going on in agriculture.  In some ways – our business community is thriving, and as someone who has invested much time in recruiting businesses and promoting business development locally, I was working to move forward LB 720, the business incentive tax legislation, so that we can keep on that track for growing and thriving.

I am committed to continuing work next year on both the property tax issue and the business incentive issue.  Our property owners need property tax relief.  Incentive plans have created over 850 business expansions, resulting in over $30 billion capitol investment and 100,000 new jobs.  Both of these issues are important and need to be addressed.

It’s easy for me to connect these two issues right here in our district.  As we were debating the legislation, a local farm family from Seward County was hosting an open house for their new poultry facility.  Their partner in their operation is Lincoln Premium Poultry who was brought to Nebraska through the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, and local economic development partners, and weighed our incentive packages as part of their considerations.  The new poultry farm in my district creates an opportunity for the family to diversify their operation, creates jobs, and provides a steady income stream through their contract with Lincoln Premium Poultry for the next 15 years.

I believe these two issues are intricately intertwined and that’s why I am committed to working on them throughout the interim with my colleagues.

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. Tyler 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.

With only a few days remaining in the legislative session there are a variety of topics that have yet to be debated.  One piece of legislation that we have yet to take up was advanced to General File out of the Revenue committee just this week – LB 153.

LB 153 was introduced by Senator Brewer and prioritized by Senator Lowe. If passed, the legislation repeals the current, one-time election for retired military to exempt a portion of their military retirement benefit income from tax.  It would replace it with a 50% exemption for military retirement benefit income, to the extent it was included in the federal adjusted gross income.  The change would begin on or after January 2020.

It’s estimated that around 16,000 Nebraska citizens currently receive some type of military retired pay.  Offutt in Bellevue employs over 3,000 individuals at any given time.  With every state surrounding Nebraska either exempting military retirement pay or taxing it at a very reduced rate, we are inevitably losing citizens to our neighboring states where they can avoid paying state income tax.

At its core, I see this as a workforce development bill.  Retired military personnel are highly trained, highly educated, and have demonstrated leadership and management skills.  Statistics show that military retirees are 50 percent more likely to start a small business.  These are exactly the types of people we want to attract, and because of our tax policy, we are losing them to our neighbors.

About 400 people a year retire from Offutt Air Force base.  A lot of them retire and turn around and walk back into the same work environment, either becoming a civilian employee or returning as a military contractor. When they do that in Offutt Air Force base, evidence has shown that many of them establish their residence across the border in Iowa where their military benefits are not taxed.  This is an important issue that we need to address in the near future and one I support.  I thank Senator Brewer and Senator Lowe for their work on this important topic.

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. Tyler 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.

Nebraska’s current program to incent employers to locate or expand in Nebraska will expire in 2020.  With a record of bringing over 850 business expansions to our state, 100,000 new jobs and $30 billion in capital investment since 1987, Nebraska cannot afford to be without a program. We must keep our “open for business” sign illuminated.

That’s why I and 20 colleagues are sponsoring LB720, the ImagiNE Nebraska Act.  The bill certainly builds on the success of past incentive programs and modernizes the system to meet the state’s evolving needs for the next 10 years.

LB 720 was based on an in-depth study for the Legislature’s Economic Development Taskforce, with collaboration among frontline economic developers, the Departments of Revenue and Economic Development and chambers of commerce across the state.  The study identified four principles that must be addressed in the next update to Nebraska’s economic incentives program:  simplicity, transparency, integrity and competitiveness.

The ImagiNE Nebraska Act brings these additional tools to help grow our economy and our communities.

  • The program better accommodates the diversity of businesses seeking to locate or expand in Nebraska, with five qualification levels tailored to the needs of both large and small communities.
  • The revised program helps address Nebraska’s workforce shortage by allowing businesses to access tax credits in the form of loans for training and recruitment and further incentivizes higher-wage jobs.
  • It gives the applicants, state officials and residents greater transparency and accountability by requiring more detailed certifications upfront rather than when tax credits are used and requiring annual legislative reports.
  • It increases the value of Nebraska’s primary economic development program to would-be investors or employers, by simplifying the process and speeding up access to the benefits.

One of the most important elements of previous programs will continue – ImagiNE Nebraska will remain “pay-for-performance” program, meaning no tax credits until jobs are created or investments are made.

Having sat across from CEO’s working to woo them to Seward County, I know ImagiNE Nebraska will give our economic development professionals across the state better tools to close a deal.

At a time in Nebraska when 63 of Nebraska’s 93 counties saw population loss between 2010 and 2016, when the increasing cost of state services is overburdening our residents with taxes, we must not cut back on our work to grow our economy, grow jobs and grow our population. I look forward to discussing this priority with my colleagues on the floor of the Unicameral next week.

This week, I’d like to discuss LB 289, the comprehensive property tax reform package advanced from the Revenue Committee.  I voted in favor of the advancement of the package to allow for the Nebraska Legislature to debate this critical issue further, however, I am opposed to the provisions of the bill that deal with the tax exemptions included in the package.

The following is a list of taxes discussed in LB 289 which would go towards property tax relief:  Increases the Documentary Stamp Tax from $2.25 to $3.25 per $1,000; raises the cigarette tax from $.64 per package to $1.00 per package.  Increases the sales tax by a half-cent.  Removes sales tax exemptions for the following: labor for repair or maintenance of motor vehicles; pet-related services; moving services; storage services; clothes cleaning services; transportation network company services; beauty and personal care services such as hair care, nail services, skin care and hair removal; tattoo or other body modification services; maintenance, painting and repair for single family homes; interior design services; limousine, taxi and other transportation services; lawn care, gardening and landscaping services; parking services; swimming pool cleaning and maintenance services; dating and social escort services; telefloral delivery services; wedding planning; weight loss programs and services; personal training services; and candy, pop, bottled water, and ice.

In total, the changes in the tax code should raise approximately $372 million dollars, which is in addition to the $224 million dollars which is already in the Property Tax Credit Fund.  This relief will be delivered to Nebraska through increased state aid to schools, which would help offset the loss schools would face as LB 289 would reduce property valuations for agricultural and horticultural land to 65% and all other real property to 90% of its assessed value for taxation for school district taxation.  If LB 289 were enacted, it is projected the increased biennium state aid to schools to provide for property tax relief would equal approximately $1,046,000,000 dollars.

LB 289 also provides an additional resource for Omaha Public Schools to help the district address its underfunded Omaha School Employees Retirement (OSERS) Plan. LB 289 grants OPS the authority to levy a maximum of an additional six cents which would generate approximately $13,000,000 a year.  The revenue from this additional levy must be used to meet OPS’s annual required contribution to the OSERS plan.  As Chairman of the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee, I have made it clear that the State will not assume the liability of the OSERS plan. The grant of this 6 cents levy authority applies only to OPS and gives them a mechanism to meet their financial obligations.

As I stated earlier, I understand the need for property tax relief, however, I do not know if eliminating sales tax exemptions for certain industries while retaining sales tax exemptions on other industries is the way to achieve property tax relief.  By doing this, the Legislature is creating winners and losers.  I believe a more fair way would be to conduct an interim study to examine each and every sales tax exemption more completely and for a new bill to be introduced next 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. Tyler 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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