Senator Mike Gloor, Capitol Comments, March 2, 2015
Some of you will recall that I am now the Chair of the Revenue Committee of the Legislature. This Committee, charged with evaluating bills that impact the state’s flow of revenue (read taxes) meets three days a week to handle the volume of bills on the subject. We have had numerous bills referenced our way this year; 92 exactly. Not surprisingly, very few of these bills are ideas that would raise taxes. The overwhelming majority are requests to exempt individuals or businesses from taxes. By category we have; 7 bills on income tax, 26 bills(!) dealing with property tax, 18 on sales tax, 15 pertaining to tax credits, 6 with ideas on retirement benefits and 20 that fit into a broad category of ‘miscellaneous.’ Our legislative procedures require the Revenue Committee to ‘advance’ the bill, also termed ‘voting a bill out of Committee,’ for it to have any chance at being debated and signed into law. Since there are 8 Senators on Revenue Committee, a majority (5) must vote in the affirmative. On any Committee, but especially in Revenue, advancing a bill is no easy task.
Given the volume of bills and the limits on the States’ ability to give away its income, the question often asked of me is, “How do you decide which bill deserves to go forward?” The answer is involved and lends itself to a dialogue rather than the limited space of a column. Certainly, as Chair of the Committee I have control of agendas. I view that as an opportunity to be selective rather than obstructive.
The larger issue to me is how the Committee sets priorities given the volume and diverse nature of the bills. We are fortunate in that we have some help in that effort. In 2013 the Legislature authorized a temporary Committee titled the Tax Modernization Committee that conducted hearings across the state. The Committee was charged with reviewing and evaluating the State’s tax laws and making recommendations to update or modernize the revenue system.
I will discuss the list of recommendations of the Modernization Committee in more detail in a subsequent column but the one tax issue that rose to the top was – property tax relief. If you have paid attention to newly elected Governor Ricketts priorities, property tax is also one of his top priorities.
The challenge to the Revenue Committee and the Legislature is the design and impact of property tax relief. As I mentioned earlier, we have 26 separate bills that propose some change in property taxes. Since funding for our schools is attached at the hip through formula this is a complicated and often delicate process.
I have little doubt we will include some degree of property tax relief in our budget this year. Hopefully this column will better allow you to follow our debates on this important issue.
My next column will cover some of the additional recommendations of the Tax Modernization Committee and bills enacted in response.
As always, you can contact me at: Senator Mike Gloor, District 35, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604. Phone number (402) 471-2617. E-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.