NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. John Kuehn

Sen. John Kuehn

District 38

Welcome

January 6th, 2016

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 38th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.

Sincerely,
Sen. John Kuehn

Letter to the District 22

June 3rd, 2016

Voter frustration is high. The lack of expediency and political will to address complex issues like tax reform and abuse of the public trust as seen in the recent Tourism Commission debacle leave voters disenfranchised. Voters throughout District 38 frequently express a sense of bewilderment regarding actions of the Nebraska Legislature that are out of step with the values of a majority of Nebraskans. I am frequently asked “What’s going on up there in Lincoln?” in conversation with constituents.

Public confidence in their government requires transparency and accountability. The votes I cast as a state senator are public votes, visible to the public for scrutiny. Accountability for my votes does not occur only at the ballot box. I have an obligation to be forthright during my term with my constituents about the votes I cast.

At the state Republican Convention last month, Governor Ricketts discussed several issues of importance to the Republican party platform and Republican senators who voted in opposition. Stating the public votes of elected officials at a political convention has drawn the ire of some editorial boards and a handful of state senators. I am bewildered by the criticism.

The Nebraska Legislature is officially nonpartisan. As a matter of practice and organization, this means that political party affiliation has no bearing on committee assignments or legislative leadership. Party affiliation does not appear on the ballot, nor are candidates restricted to a specific party on the primary ballot. I value this tradition. No threat to this process exists.

That said, the party affiliation of each senator is well known among other senators, voters, and the media. It is frequently referred to in reporting. The fact that party affiliation does not play a role in the organization of the Legislature does not mean individual senators are devoid of political ideology, nor does it mean voters are unconcerned with the political party of their state senator.

I am a Republican. That is not merely a superficial label I chose as an 18 year old when I registered to vote. It is a reflection of my principles and view of the role of government. It is a signal to voters of a slate of practical issues to which I subscribe. While I am in no way bound to adhere to a formal party platform, I have an obligation to be honest and forthright with my constituents when I depart from my publicly stated positions. Voters deserve that transparency and accountability.

Open and frank discussion of public votes by elected officials should not be stifled under any circumstance. Among all of the defense of the institution of the Nebraska Legislature, separation of powers, and the independence of state senators, the most important component of state government has not been mentioned: the voters. Every opportunity for the public to know and understand the context in which elected representatives vote on issues important to them should be encouraged, not criticized. An informed electorate is the very foundation of our representative democracy.

Letter to the District 21

June 3rd, 2016

Nebraska voters have many opportunities to participate in the process of developing policy and making laws. Although some may feel that their power to influence ends when they cast their ballot on election day, Nebraskans have multiple avenues for individuals and groups to provide input to the lawmaking process during the legislative session, as well as direct influence on laws through the Initiative and Referendum processes.

As the only Unicameral Legislature in the nation, the voters of Nebraska are frequently referred to as the Legislature’s “Second House”. In fact, this is more than just a catchphrase. While rules vary from state to state, Nebraska is unique in its public hearing process for proposed legislation. Every bill that is introduced is required to have a public hearing by the legislative committee to which it was referred. The hearings are open to all members of the public, who may attend, provide verbal testimony, or submit written remarks.

No other state provides the degree of open public access to the committee process during the legislative session. In contrast, most states have a complicated political process which determines whether or not a bill even receives a public hearing, and many allow only invited testimony.

Outside of the legislative session, Nebraska voters have two other options to directly create or repeal laws, the Initiative and Referendum. An Initiative allows voters to place language directly on the ballot for consideration by all voters of the state, bypassing the Legislature completely. The Referendum is a means by which voters can repeal a law passed by the Legislature. Not all states give voters these options. Of the 50 states, only 24 have the Initiative process, and only 24 states have the Referendum option. While many states have both, some have only one or the other. Of Nebraska’s neighboring states, neither Kansas or Iowa residents have either the Initiative or Referendum available.

The Initiative process has been in place in Nebraska since 1912. In order to become law, a proposed Initiative must first receive signatures of enough registered voters to be placed on the ballot. An Initiative aimed to amend Nebraska statute requires petition signatures of 7% of registered Nebraska voters. Constitutional Initiatives require 10% of the registered voters to sign the petition. Once certified for the ballot, Initiatives must receive a majority of affirmative votes, provided votes cast on the Initiative are at least 35% of the total votes cast in the election. Term Limits for Nebraska Senators is an example of a successful ballot initiative.

Voters can repeal a law passed by the Legislature through a direct ballot vote during a General Election. In order to be placed on the ballot for potential repeal, a successful petition process must be completed within 90 days of the passage of the law. Signatures of 5% of registered voters are required for the Referendum to be placed on the General Election ballot. Certified signatures of 10% of registered voters prevents the law from taking effect prior to the General Election vote. The successful Referendum on the repeal of the death penalty passed during the 2016 legislative session will appear on the the ballot this November.

Safeguards are put in place to ensure voters from across the state are represented in the petition process for both Initiative and Referendum. Successful petitions must submit signatures from at least 5% of the registered voters in 38 of the 93 counties in Nebraska. A rigorous screening and certification process of petition signatures reduces the possibility of fraud and ensures the integrity of these important processes for Nebraska voters.

I strongly encourage all Nebraskans to get involved in making policy. In addition to voting, Nebraska voters have greater opportunity to directly influence laws than in any other state in the nation. If you cannot make it to Lincoln to testify in person a public hearing, submit written testimony to the Committee. Circulate and sign petitions for Initiatives or Referendums that are important to you. Above all, take the time to understand issues that make it to the ballot and make sure to vote. Take advantage of every opportunity to have your voice heard.

Letter to the District 20

June 3rd, 2016

Over the past 20 weeks I have addressed many issues of the legislative session in my weekly column, and over the next 30 I will be detailing many more important and complex policy topics. With graduation celebrations and the approach of Memorial Day, the official start to summer is just around the corner. In addition to my responsibilities in Lincoln and throughout the district, I will be representing District 38 and Nebraska at several forums this summer. I have been invited to participate as one of ten legislators at a biotechnology policy roundtable in June at the Biotechnology Industry Organization International Convention. The State Legislative Leaders Foundation selected me as one of 48 legislators from around the country to participate in leadership training at the Emerging Leaders Program, hosted by the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia in July. Aapresid, a Farm Organization in Argentina, has invited me to address their annual congress in August, discussing Right to Farm policy and support of science-based policy for agriculture.

In preparation for travel, family vacations, and longer days allowing more time in our outdoor spaces, many Nebraskans are looking for a summer reading list to relax and unwind. I am an unapologetic bookworm, and have often found summer a great time to catch up on reading for pleasure. With the demands of my legislative duties, my free time to read a dog-eared paperback is rare. However, technology has enabled me to keep up on many current titles. Personally, I use a digital audio app on my phone and portable devices that automatically syncs with my tablet to allow me to listen while driving, mowing and baling hay, doing summer yard work, and during travel.

In honor of the start of summer, I am going to address a lighter topic this week and share what books are on my recommended summer reading list. The titles reflect both my personal interests as well as important policy topics I am thinking about this summer.

My current book is The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley. Her comprehensive look at the characteristics of the best education systems in the world has great insight for parents, educators, and policymakers. For an interesting take on innovation, Adam Grant’s Originals is both engaging and thought provoking.

If you only have time for one piece of fiction this summer, I highly recommend The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I’ve read it once already and will likely read it again during my summer flights. Tattoos On The Heart, by Father Gregory Boyle, is a moving account of the challenges of urban ministry.

The Rational Optimist, by Matt Ridley, looks toward the prosperity of the future through the lens of the historical development of civil society. In The End of Average, author Tim Rose challenges the assumptions that averages are adequate to describe populations and their value in decision making. Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s latest book, Dealing with China, looks at the rise of China as an economic superpower and the implications for local and global economies. Finally, The Gene by Pulitzer Prize winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee examines the history and future of the science of genetics, including the social implications of reading our own genetic code.

If you are looking for additional ideas, the Nebraska 150 Reading Challenge, developed in recognition of Nebraska’s sesquicentennial, has a list of Nebraska authors for all interests. The list can be found at nebraska150books.org.

Letter to the District 19

June 3rd, 2016

A recent report of the State Auditor’s Office brought to light a number of serious issues with the State Tourism Commission. Egregious spending and irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars is unacceptable at any level of government. A lack of sufficient oversight over administrative processes and spending facilitated the mismanagement at the Tourism Commission. A clear chain of command and accountability for use of all tax dollars is essential to prevent a similar situation from happening again.

The Tourism Commission operates independently of any oversight by the Legislature or the Executive Branch. In 2012, LB 1053 removed the Travel and Tourism Division from the Department of Economic Development, making it a stand alone commission managed by commissioners appointed by the Governor. The model is not without precedent. The Game and Parks Commission operates in much the same manner. Both agencies are funded primarily by Cash Funds. In contrast to General Funds obtained from sales and incomes tax receipts, Cash Funds are restricted pots of money derived from specific fees and statutorily required to fund specific functions. Game and Parks Cash Funds include hunting and fishing license fees, park entrance fees, and the like. The Tourism Commission is funded primarily by the lodging tax, which is 1% of gross receipts from hotel and motel stays.

Oversight is a complicated balance. A bureaucracy can be burdensome and inefficient, not utilizing your dollars to the best possible ends. Oversight committees can be abused as a means of achieving political objectives. On the other hand, the Tourism Commission debacle exemplifies how quickly an agency can abuse the public trust without adequate checks and balances on its operation.

The solution lies in absolute transparency and clear accountability. Taxpayers must be able to readily see how their dollars are being spent. Contracts with private entities can obscure the nature of spending and keep egregious expenses from public view. Cash Funded agencies are a unique challenge, as the Legislature only grants authority to use Cash Funds. Agencies funded by these specific fees can feel “ownership” of those funds, without recognition that they are still taxpayer dollars regardless of what name is given to the fees. Careful examination of Cash Fund spending is vital to ensuring fees are not set too high, taking more money than needed from taxpayers. Spending justifications for Cash Funds should be equally as scrutinized as spending from the General Fund.

Accountability is the second vital component. Independent commissions have no responsibility to an elected, accountable authority. Appointed commissioners have subject expertise that is vital to effective management, but must still have a clear chain of command to either the Legislative or Executive branches. Removing Tourism from Economic Development severed that accountability. Similar questions of legislative accountability have recently arisen regarding the reconfigured Natural Resources Commission. Appointed Commissioners should have a clear sight of the taxpayer, and taxpayers must have a mechanism to hold those who spend their dollars responsible.

Tourism is the third largest industry in Nebraska. Strategic investment in developing Nebraska’s tourism sector will yield strong returns for our state. Public confidence in government is maintained through transparent, accountable management of the resources entrusted by the people. Although unfortunate, the Tourism Commission audit provides valuable lessons to prevent a repeat of similar mistakes.

There is no doubt property taxes are of concern to Nebraskans. In a poll conducted in March of 2016, 45% of Nebraska voters listed property taxes as their top priority for tax relief. Of note, when those numbers were broken down by congressional district, 49% of voters in the metro Omaha 2nd Congressional District selected property tax relief as their top priority, higher than even the rural 3rd District where soaring ag land valuations have created the large inequity in property tax bills among taxpayers. In contrast, 19% felt incomes taxes should be the priority, while 13% selected inheritance taxes.

Despite clear evidence that taxpayers see their property tax bills as excessive, achieving significant reform continues to be a challenge. I share the level of frustration felt by many taxpayers at the slow pace of reform. It is counterintuitive that every proposed solution to such a widely recognized problem would meet formidable opposition. In the bill hearing for LB 958, the bill proposing several initial steps to property tax reform, seven proponents testified in support of the concepts introduced in the bill. Those testifying represented taxpayer interests, including the Nebraska Cattlemen and Platte Institute. Even the Nebraska Department of Revenue testified in support of the bill. Yes, that is correct: the agency in charge of tax collection testified in support of the property tax reform bill.

In stark contrast, 29 groups representing the spending side of the property tax equation testified in opposition to property tax reform. Opposition testimony ranged in specifics, but one central theme was present throughout: don’t restrict spending. Ironically, the paid lobbyists and public employees obstructing the property tax reform process were paid by you, using your tax dollars. The Nebraska Public Employees Union, League of Nebraska Municipalities, Nebraska Association of Resources Districts, Nebraska Association of County Officials, Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association, Greater Nebraska Schools Association, and other public employees turned out to oppose limitations to their spending and greater transparency of local government budgets.

Use of taxpayer dollars for lobbying is not a new development, but it is one that obscures the policy process. In many cases, public funds are used for membership dues for organizations who employ full time staff to lobby on their behalf. While associations may also provide other membership benefits, their lobbying efforts to keep dollars flowing to their member governments are their top priority. Many political subdivisions, including cities, schools, natural resource districts, and community colleges will use taxpayer dollars to hire private lobbyists. Assessing the total cost to taxpayers of these lobbying efforts is a challenge. Several organizations have not been forthcoming with information about membership dues and fees paid using taxpayer dollars when requested by my office.

Although tax shifts, changes in how we assess property valuations, and other technical improvements may blunt the force of the property tax burden, the ultimate solution lies with responsible spending. Government at all levels must have an open discussion about what represents a reasonable rate of growth in spending. Increasing the ask from taxpayers of 4.5-6% a year or higher when their incomes are growing at 2-3% in real terms is not sustainable. Determining restrictions on spending that are both reasonable and fair is not possible when proposed solutions are met with a wall of paid opposition. I am elected to represent the interests of taxpayers in Lincoln, and local elected officials are responsible for representing the interests of their taxpayers as well. Using taxpayer money to lobby against the interests of taxpayers obstructs the path to meaningful solutions to the property tax crisis.

As always, I value your input on any matter facing state government. You can reach my office at 402-471-2732 or email at jkuehn@leg.ne.gov. For daily updates, please follow me on Twitter at @JohnKuehnDVM.

Senator John Kuehn, District 38

Letter to the District 17

April 28th, 2016

Among taxpayers in District 38, property tax issues dominate every conversation. All property owners have seen their total property tax bill increase dramatically over the past decade. Agricultural landowners have seen year after year of double digit increases in their assessed valuations, creating a shift of the overall tax burden disproportionately to farmers and ranchers. Residential and commercial property owners have also seen an increase in their taxes paid, creating pressure on family budgets and the financial viability of small businesses. Despite property taxes consistently ranking as the top tax policy concern among voters, organized resistance to significant changes to property tax policies remains strong. Taxpayer frustration over the speed and magnitude of property tax reform is high, while the taxing entities see every reform proposal as draconian, using your tax dollars to pay lobbyists to oppose tax relief.

Property tax discussions are complicated because the revenue they generate fund those government functions that are most personal to us. Our local schools, city services, county roads, groundwater management, and community colleges are the up-close aspects of government that impact our lives every day. Spending choices and tax levy rate decisions are made by our friends and neighbors on local boards. They determine the salary for our local teachers, the park and recreational facilities in our communities, the access to vocational education opportunities locally, and the maintenance of local roads.

An interesting phenomenon occurs when taxpayers talk to me about property taxes. Taxpayers will assert schools spend too much money in general, but not their local school. Taxpayers are reluctant to address specific spending with their city council or county supervisors, because potholes remain to be fixed on their street or their local bridge needs repair. Community College and Natural Resource District budgets have more than doubled in a decade, yet workforce development and water sustainability remain top priorities with no immediate resolution in sight. Local board members report no taxpayers show up to their budget hearings, yet meetings rooms are packed any time cuts to services are suggested or new infrastructure is debated.

We all make a cost/benefit analysis of our personal spending decisions and expenditures in our businesses. We separate what we need–housing, food, transportation–with what we want–vacations, entertainment, and the latest gadget. Our personal incomes are limited, and we prioritize accordingly. Local governments must do the same.

Successful resolution of the property tax issue requires collaboration among taxpayers, local taxing authorities, and state policy makers. Local citizens must be clear on what services they need and which they want, and understand who pays for those choices. Shifting the burden of funding to other taxpayers is not responsible. Local boards must establish clear spending goals and live within those means, prioritizing spending choices. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I have experience making those tough decisions. We have kept growth of the state budget to 3.5% in a single budget cycle, half of the growth in previous years. State legislators must not simply look out for the interests of their own taxpayers, but establish tax policies that are fair and equitable to all citizens, being aware of disproportionate burdens on a single group.

While initial steps were made this past legislative session, the greatest development of note was the wide disconnect between taxpayers and special interest groups. While citizens paying the bills continue to call for greater and faster reform, groups representing those governments spending the revenue aggressively resist any limitations on spending, budget growth, or their taxing authority. The League of Municipalities, Association of County Officials, Community College Association, Natural Resource District Association, and the almost endless list of school organizations lobby hard against reforms. Ironically, they are using your tax dollars to oppose tax relief, costing you more tax dollars.

Senator John Kuehn, District 38

Letter to the District 16

April 22nd, 2016

On Wednesday, April 20th, the 104th Session of the Nebraska Legislature adjourned Sine Die. The end of the 60 day session marked the final legislative day for 11 senators who have reached the end of their constitutionally limited terms. During the course of the session, 216 separate bills were passed into law. An additional 66 introduced bills were packaged and amended into other bills, often as “omnibus” bills, and passed into law even though they were not debated individually as introduced. Of the bills prioritized by senators, committees, and the speaker, four were not debated on the floor due to limitations on time.

In addition to bills that were passed, several significant issues did not become law, either by defeat during floor debate or gubernatorial veto. Medical marijuana and Medicaid expansion were again defeated. A redistricting plan that would have put rural Nebraska at a significant disadvantage in a process that will most likely lead to a loss of 2 rural seats in the Legislature was fortunately vetoed by the Governor. Several issues became law that I do not support, including expansion of benefits for illegal aliens and deregulation of private electrical generation.

Over the course of the Interim months, I will be writing at greater length about a number of the issues debated by the Legislature this session that will likely appear next year. Many of the issues that need to be addressed are priorities for residents of District 38. Property taxes, education funding reform, spending restrictions, effective water management, and economic development are but a few of the issues that will be at the top of the list for next session. Even though the Legislature will not be in session, work on each of these issues will continue throughout the summer and fall.

In addition to my work on the Appropriations and Performance Audit Committees, I have been appointed to work on several special committees during the interim period. These include the ACCESS Nebraska Special Oversight Committee, the Biosciences Steering Committee, the Climate Change Policy Committee, and the Veterinary Prescription Drug Monitoring Task Force. The work of these special committees will center around hearings and stakeholder meetings for these very specific issues. If legislative solutions are needed to address the topics, the work of the special committees will form the basis of any legislation.

In addition to committee work, I will continue efforts over the interim on my priority issues. Right to Farm protection will continue to be my top priority. I will be actively engaged in continued discussions to address the property tax crisis through local spending control and education funding reform. Privacy issues that surround the expanded use of drones by private individuals and companies remain a concern, as well as continued efforts to bring more transparency to state government through more effective laws around lobbying and political influence.

I look forward to meetings and discussions over the coming months in communities throughout the seven counties of District 38. If your civic or community group would like me to join you for a discussion about topic before the Legislature, don’t hesitate to contact my office for scheduling.
As always, I value your questions on legislation. You can reach my office at 402-471-2732 or email at jkuehn@leg.ne.gov. For updates during the session, please follow me on Twitter at @JohnKuehnDVM.

Senator John Kuehn, District 38

Letter to the District 15

April 18th, 2016

With 59 legislative days complete, the 104th Nebraska Legislature is quickly coming to a conclusion. The session has addressed issues spanning from property taxes to electoral mechanics to many of the usual social issues. The two legislative days of this past week involved Final Reading of a large number of bills. Those bills that passed Final Reading have been presented to the Governor for his signature or veto. The final day schedule will be determined in large part by any vetoes that result.

The final weeks of the legislative session were marked by debate on many of the more controversial issues. Since this is a short session limited to 60 days, time frequently becomes as much of a talking point as the legislation at hand. With many senators having bills of their own on the agenda, the priority of moving through the agenda at times seemed to supersede the need to adequately discuss some complex issues on the floor.

Policy debate arises from conflicting ideas and points of view. Whether the differences in perspective arise from rural versus urban, conservative or liberal, or even time served in the Legislature, those distinctions are essential to developing the best policy for all citizens of the state. A robust, civil, and fact-based debate is important to the legislative process. There have been multiple times the past few weeks where important discussions were abbreviated for the sake of time. I frequently weighed the merits of time in my own decision to hit my light and engage in floor debate. In the end, I am concerned that several issues did not receive a thorough vetting of the entire proposal before being passed simply in favor of moving forward on the list of bills.

In conjunction with many of the more controversial legislative issues came an onslaught of uncivil, and, at times, vitriolic communication to my office. Proponents of medical marijuana, LGBT issues, illegal immigration and even Medicaid expansion felt that insults and threats were the appropriate response to my votes on those issues. In most cases, they did not even address my floor statements or rationale for my vote. Rather, the approach was to impugn my character and make conjecture about my motives. Nebraska Farmer’s Union even went so far as to falsely state to their supporters I had accepted a campaign contribution from Smithfield Foods, which I did not. It is impossible to have a productive discussion about what policy is best for the state when truth and facts don’t matter. I do not seriously consider points of view presented to me that are rude, not based in fact, or disparaging. Complex issues demand an equally thorough discussion, not mud-slinging and political gamesmanship.

In the coming weeks I will address in greater detail many of the issues faced during the session and what may develop for the next session. In the meantime, the final day remains. As always, I value your questions on legislation. You can reach my office at 402-471-2732 or email at jkuehn@leg.ne.gov. For updates during the session, please follow me on Twitter at @JohnKuehnDVM.

Senator John Kuehn, District 38  

 

Letter to the District 14

April 18th, 2016

The past week the Nebraska Legislature began floor debate and advanced two bills beginning to address the disparity in property tax impact between agricultural land, commercial property, and residential property. The debate over the bills exemplified the differences in perspective among senators about the magnitude of the property tax problem, as well as the proper approach to addressing it. Although wide sweeping structural reform was not passed, initial steps were taken to begin addressing property taxes.

The first bill advanced to Select File was an amended version of LB 959, brought to the floor by the Education Committee. The most significant component of amended LB 959 is the removal of the minimum levy requirement for school budgets. Currently, there exists a minimum levy requirement for a school district to remain eligible for state equalization aid. This can create a disincentive for school districts to reduce their levy in response to increase in their property tax base valuations to avoid losing state equalization aid. As amended, LB 959 removes that minimum levy requirement. Technical changes to the calculation of the the averaging adjustment for determining enrollment in the aid formula were also included.

The second bill, LB 958, was a drastically amended version from the introduced copy brought by the Revenue Committee. The bill before the Legislature for debate included an additional $30 million in property tax credit directed to agricultural landowners. Additionally, restrictions on community college budget authority were also included. During debate the two issues were divided. An amended reduced amount in property tax credit for landowners, $20 million, was advanced to Select File. Due to the extended time of debate, the community college component remains but will be eliminated from the bill on Select File per agreement.

The extended and, at times, tense debate on the floor reflected the differences in priority among senators representing different interests. It is clear that there continues to be no clear path forward regarding broad structural changes to both education funding and the distribution of funding local governments among different classes of property owners.

These are the first of many very small steps forward to address the property tax crisis.There also remain two more rounds of debate for each of these bills, where language could change substantially. I encourage constituents to tune into the floor debate and gain a first-hand understanding of the dynamic at play within the Nebraska Legislature.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office with questions or to express your position on legislation at 402-471-2732 or email at jkuehn@leg.ne.gov. For daily updates during the session, please follow me on Twitter at @JohnKuehnDVM.

Senator John Kuehn, District 38

Letter to the District 13

April 18th, 2016

The past week the Nebraska Legislature began floor debate and advanced two bills beginning to address the disparity in property tax impact between agricultural land, commercial property, and residential property. The debate over the bills exemplified the differences in perspective among senators about the magnitude of the property tax problem, as well as the proper approach to addressing it. Although wide sweeping structural reform was not passed, initial steps were taken to begin addressing property taxes.

The first bill advanced to Select File was an amended version of LB 959, brought to the floor by the Education Committee. The most significant component of amended LB 959 is the removal of the minimum levy requirement for school budgets. Currently, there exists a minimum levy requirement for a school district to remain eligible for state equalization aid. This can create a disincentive for school districts to reduce their levy in response to increase in their property tax base valuations to avoid losing state equalization aid. As amended, LB 959 removes that minimum levy requirement. Technical changes to the calculation of the the averaging adjustment for determining enrollment in the aid formula were also included.

The second bill, LB 958, was a drastically amended version from the introduced copy brought by the Revenue Committee. The bill before the Legislature for debate included an additional $30 million in property tax credit directed to agricultural landowners. Additionally, restrictions on community college budget authority were also included. During debate the two issues were divided. An amended reduced amount in property tax credit for landowners, $20 million, was advanced to Select File. Due to the extended time of debate, the community college component remains but will be eliminated from the bill on Select File per agreement.

The extended and, at times, tense debate on the floor reflected the differences in priority among senators representing different interests. It is clear that there continues to be no clear path forward regarding broad structural changes to both education funding and the distribution of funding local governments among different classes of property owners.

These are the first of many very small steps forward to address the property tax crisis.There also remain two more rounds of debate for each of these bills, where language could change substantially. I encourage constituents to tune into the floor debate and gain a first-hand understanding of the dynamic at play within the Nebraska Legislature.  

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office with questions or to express your position on legislation at 402-471-2732 or email at jkuehn@leg.ne.gov. For daily updates during the session, please follow me on Twitter at @JohnKuehnDVM.

Senator John Kuehn, District 38

Sen. John Kuehn

District 38
Room #1308
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2732
Email: jkuehn@leg.ne.gov
Search Senator Page For:
Topics
Archives
Committee Assignments
Search Current Bills
Search Laws
Live Video Streaming
Find Your Senator