This is my last legislative session due to term limits and I am tightening my shoe laces knowing that it will be a sprint all the way to the finish line in mid-April. There is too much work to be done and no time for nostalgia.
Since this is a non-budget year it is a shortened Session (60 working days and I’m writing this on day 10) but that doesn’t mean various constituencies expect any less than we would accomplish during a full 90 day session. However, it is clear we have three main priorities.
- We must deal with corrections problems before the Federal government dictates solutions with big price tags. These price tags would absorb so much of our budget that it eliminates considering anything else. The Judiciary Committee, under the guidance of Senator Seiler of Hastings, has been working diligently on solutions. I remain optimistic.
- Projections for State revenues are down slightly. That means we must say “no” to otherwise worthy programs far more often than usual. Our ability to keep our budget at just over 3% growth and still cut taxes is the envy of most States. I am not averse to using a small amount of our rainy day fund but ultimately our priority is to say “no.”
- We must have more property tax relief. Specifically, we must become less dependent on property taxes to fund education. Many of you will have read that the Revenue Committee that I chair has been working with Senator Sullivan and the Education Committee toward possible solutions. Furthermore, we have also been working with Governor Ricketts and his staff to collaboratively address this issue. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have open and straight forward problem solving discussions with the Executive branch. (Actually, given our communities recent experience with the Veterans Home move, most readers probably have some sense of that.) Having the Governor committed to property tax relief is vital for many reasons, not the least of which is continuity. Property tax relief as relates to education funding will take year by year improvements. Since so many of the Senators who are working on this issue are, like me, term limited this year, the Governor’s office can bring some continued focus to the effort well into the future.
I encourage readers to continue to contact my office about bills of interest or concern to you. There are many bills that don’t address a priority but still may be important to the welfare of the State. Often these bills do not come with a price tag. I especially appreciate constituent feedback on those bills.
This is the first of several columns I will write about taxes, including my proposed tobacco tax. My address still remains, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509; email is firstname.lastname@example.org and the office phone number is 402-471-2617.