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Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 41st 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 my staff and me about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.
Sen. Tom Briese
As recovery efforts continue to pick up after the storms across state, my office has been in close contact with state and local officials to make sure that the people of District 41 are not forgotten about. As of Monday, more counties have been added to the higher level of available federal aid under the Emergency Declaration, and additional counties are still under consideration. As I’ve written before, the most important thing is that all of your damages are documented and reported to your county Emergency Manager. I’m asking every local official I speak with to tell me or my office if they aren’t getting the support they need from the state, and I’m glad to hear that most have positive things to report.
I also want to take time to update you on the property tax relief efforts of the Revenue Committee, of which I am a member. As many of you know, there were multiple bills directed at property tax relief this year, including some of my own. The Revenue committee has been working to put together a tax reform package, reflecting the contents of several of those bills. It is the intent of the committee to have a bill on the floor of the legislature by mid-April. We are currently working out the details of this “package,” which I will describe in more detail below.
The Revenue Committee reflects a cross-section of the body, with perhaps a slightly more conservative bent. We are made up of four urban and four rural senators. Because of the need to overcome an almost certain filibuster effort on the floor, it will be necessary to be able to ultimately secure 33 votes of the 49 members of the whole Legislature. With this in mind, I believe it would be very important to send a package to the floor with an 8-0 vote of the committee. Because of the need to get 33 votes, and to get as close to full support as possible in the committee, I’ve always felt that out of political necessity, the package should include several components. Something for everyone, so to speak. And that is what we most likely will present: a package that contains several components that will help to get buy-in from rural and urban interests, the business community, and the ideological right and left.
With several details still to be ironed out, the tax reform package will be anchored by a mechanism to deliver meaningful and substantial property tax relief for all Nebraskans. To accomplish that relief, the package will include components to generate new revenue, direct that revenue to school funding, and ensure that those dollars yield significant property tax relief. The revenue components will be centered around sales tax revenue, specifically a rate increase and closing some loopholes and exemptions, partly using components of my LB 314 and LB 507. The school funding components will most likely be a hybrid of bills by Senator Friesen and Senator Groene. It is likely that additional revenue components will include a small step up in the cigarette tax, utilization of internet sales tax revenue, removal of some income tax loopholes, and elimination of the personal property tax exemption, among other items.
As I write this, it is possible that the tax reform package will include some measure of income tax relief, a business tax incentive component, and a mechanism to compensate low income folks for their added sales tax outlays. But again, some of these details are still being ironed out, and are subject to change. But whatever emerges from the Revenue Committee, I’m confident it will be a tax reform package that can deliver immediate and substantial property tax relief for hardworking Nebraskans, and grow that relief as we go forward.
Since my last column our state, and the 41st district in particular, has suffered through flooding of historical proportions. Nebraska has more miles of rivers than any other state in the US, and for the first time ever, every single river in the eastern part of the state has crested at a new record high.
There’s been an enormous amount of damage to private business and homes, causing financial strain on our residents. There’s also been a tremendous loss of infrastructure, including damage to highways, roads, bridges, and railroad lines. In addition to the personal loss and hardship, all of the above has a negative impact on economic growth in our state, and rural Nebraska in particular.
Over the weekend, I had a chance to inspect some of the damage in our district, including to one of our local communities, where a majority of businesses and many homes took on serious damage. An event like this can have a devastating impact on any community, but especially our small rural communities.
My fellow state senators and I were briefed on Monday by the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and Major General Bohac, who heads the agency as well as the Nebraska National Guard. At the briefing, we learned that calf losses alone from the flooding and the blizzard were estimated at 1 million heads. At the very conservative estimate of $200/head, that’s $200 million dollars in loss to the state economy – that’s before all the waters recede and we learn how these disasters are going to impact crop producers as well as our small town businesses.
But throughout all the bad news, I’ve been impressed by the sense of community I’ve witnessed as Nebraskans come together to help their neighbors in overcoming events such as this. Rural Nebraskans are resilient and self-sufficient. But there’s only so much they can do. That is why it is imperative that the federal government implement a disaster declaration. That can free up federal resources to help our state, our communities and our residents to overcome this disaster. Thankfully, the Governor and NEMA have requested an expedited Major Disaster Declaration from the President, through FEMA. In doing this, Nebraska may be able to see help much sooner than the six to eight weeks that it often takes to receive federal help after a disaster occurs. I appreciate the efforts of Governor Ricketts and our congressional delegation in their efforts to see that a federal disaster declaration be announced as soon as possible.
For those of you wondering what you can do in times like this, the best places to go will be right in your own community. The Red Cross and the Salvation Army, along with many churches and community groups, have been coordinating shelters and supplies for those who need them, and County Emergency Managers have been working with NEMA. As always, call 911 if you or someone you know is in an emergency situation.
Lastly, on the topic of legislation, there has been some movement on several of the bills I introduced or co-sponsored this year. I will give you more information on those issues in my next column.
Since mid-February, the revenue committee has now held hearings on four more bills I introduced to that committee as part of a comprehensive look at ways we can begin to address the property tax crisis. I’ll briefly cover each proposal, and also give you an overview of what I expect to see coming out of the committee in terms of tax relief.
LB314 probably got the most attention of any of my bills so far this year, and understandably so: if passed as introduced, it would represent a significant change to the reliability of K-12 education funding, a comprehensive alteration to our state tax structure, and would nearly tripled the amount of money every homeowner, farmer, and non-ag business owner receives from the property tax credit fund. The bill had its share of opponents, as any change to tax structure is bound to, but I was also glad to see that representatives of education groups, ag groups, and everyday property taxpayers all came out to support it.
LB507 and LB508 are very similar bills which serve the same purpose: close loopholes in our sales tax law and direct any new money as a result to the Property Tax Credit Fund. Every fiscal policy group I’ve come across, from the OpenSky Policy Institute to the Platte Institute to the Tax Policy Center, agrees that the best sales tax must be applied broadly to almost all consumer purchases. Various groups, of course, take different approaches to whether necessities like medical expenses and food should be included. Most agree that business inputs should be excluded. Both of these bills would close dozens of loopholes in our sales tax code, carved out over decades by special interests and lobbyists. When one purchase is arbitrarily not subject to sales tax while others are, the state collects less money. The more this happens, the less money the state has to spend on things like K-12 education and state services. The best policy is to close all of the loopholes at once, so that no one group or industry is singled out. This, of course, is easier said than done: the common refrain from almost every special interest at these hearings is “good tax policy dictates a broad base, and almost all transactions should be subject to tax. Now, here’s why my carve-out is special….” I appreciate the hard work that many of the lobbyists for these special interests do to protect special treatment for their clients, but at the end of the day, when property taxes are starting to have a crushing impact on our state’s economy, we simply cannot maintain that special treatment.
Lastly, LB506 is a comprehensive tax asking cap on K-12 property tax requests which would ensure that any new money directed to K-12 education would result in a corresponding drop in property taxes for all Nebraska taxpayers.
Now, there are a lot of competing property tax relief proposals out there. I expect to see the aspects of my bills, and the aspects of others’ bills, which are most likely to have traction in the body be put together into a comprehensive package. When everyone has contributed a piece to the whole, and when everyone has several things to like -and maybe a couple of things to dislike- about a proposal, it has a better chance of passage than one single concept from one person.
I’m glad this year to be serving with great colleagues on the revenue committee, and very grateful that the body elected someone like Sen. Linehan to chair the committee. Working together, and keeping the best interests of all Nebraskans at heart, I am confident that this year will be the year that a meaningful step forward for property tax relief has a fighting chance in Lincoln.
Last week, the 106th Legislature convened on Wednesday and elected chairs and made committee assignments. I was fortunate enough to have earned the trust and confidence of my colleagues to serve as the chair of the General Affairs Committee. The General Affairs Committee has a wide mandate which covers a number of topics including the regulation of alcohol and gambling, libraries, music licensing, cemeteries, the Nebraska Electrical Act, and the Nebraska Arts Council.
On Wednesday, the Committee on Committees was selected and, caucusing by congressional district, assigned senators to serve on committees for the next two years. Again I was very fortunate to be placed on the Urban Affairs Committee and on the Revenue Committee. That second one is something I’m particularly excited by. Almost all of the bills I have introduced over the past two years which targeted property tax relief were heard in the Revenue Committee. While I will be only one of eight senators sitting on the committee, I am very hopeful that we will be able to work together to craft legislation which will give Nebraskans the property tax relief they are demanding. I say I am hopeful because Senator Lou Ann Linehan, who was elected chair of the committee, has stated her commitment to property tax relief, as have a majority of our fellow committee members. The tricky part, as always, will be finding a consensus: first among committee members, and then among the Legislature as a whole.
Over a hundred bills were introduced on the first day of session, and bill introduction will continue until Wednesday the 23rd. Only time will tell which bills draw the most attention from the public, and which bills even make it to the floor of the legislature for debate. But I always take the input of my constituents seriously, and my staff maintains a file for each bill we get your feedback on, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch. For feedback on bills, email is the best option as it allows us to organize a folder for all the folks who weighed in on that bill.
On the topic of staff, there are a couple of changes to my office this session. Elizabeth Todsen, who served as my Administrative Assistant since day one, was offered the opportunity to move up in the world and serve as the Legislative Aide to Senator Dave Murman of Glenvil, who represents a rural district in south-central Nebraska. She will do an excellent job, and I congratulate Sen. Murman on a great hire. I have hired Alexander DeGarmo to replace her, who will also serve as the General Affairs Committee Clerk. Additionally, I have hired Loguen Blazek to fill the vacancy as the Legal Counsel to the committee. Edward Boone remains my Legislative Aide.
When you come to Lincoln, feel free to stop by the office and say hi. I always have time for constituents if I am in town – although calling ahead is always appreciated. Our new office is room 1019, on the west side of the Capitol, but our phone number remains (402)471-2631 and my email is still email@example.com.
Dear Neighbor, I always want to know where the people I represent stand on the issues.
As your state senator, it is my job to represent you in the Nebraska Legislature. This time of year, I always ask for your help with that. I’m sending out my survey again this year to find out where you stand on the issues. I hope that you will be able to take the time (about 2 minutes) to let me hear your voice. My staff and I have compiled a list of nine issues which we believe the Legislature may hear about in 2019. There are no guarantees until all the bills are actually introduced, but in case any of these issues come up, I hope to have a decent pulse taken on the folks I represent.
Take The Survey Now at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VMWRBYJ
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Please take the time to give me your views, and SHARE this post with anyone you know who lives in District 41 (Antelope, Boone, Garfield, Greeley, Howard, Pierce, Sherman, Valley, and Wheeler Counties). And go to http://eepurl.com/dlRS6n to add your name to my mailing list if someone forwarded you this post.
Look for my regular newsletter to come out the second week of the legislative session (session starts January 9, 2019).
This survey was not paid for with taxpayer dollars.
I invite students from the 41st District who are enrolled in a college or trade school to apply to be a page for the Nebraska Legislature. Pages respond to senators’ lights on the legislative floor, answer incoming calls to the chamber, prepare for committee hearings, and most importantly experience the Nebraska Legislature first-hand.
Pages are required to have a GPA between 2.5 and 4.0 and must be able to work 20 hours a week in Lincoln at the State Capitol. Applicants need to complete and submit an application to the Clerk’s Office, Room 2018, at the State Capitol. I would encourage you to also call my office and ask me to prepare a recommendation letter on your behalf.
Applications are due Friday, September 28th at 5:00 p.m. If you have any questions or wish to request a recommendation letter please call (402) 471-2631.
Due to the HVAC renovation project happening in the Nebraska State Capitol, our office has been moved to the 8th floor. As always, if you are in Lincoln we would love to have residents of District 41 come visit! The 8th floor has restricted access so if my constituents would like to visit they’ll need to contact our office. They can do so by by calling (402)471-2631 and my staff will get you upstairs.
I will be holding several town halls across the 41st district in the coming weeks. This will be a great opportunity for you to let me know what your concerns are with state government are, and for me to answer your questions about the 2018 legislative session. I hope to see many of you there!
Thursday, June 7th:
Loup City – 9:30 AM at the Frederick Hotel
St. Paul – 5:30 AM at Miletta Vista Winery
Wednesday, June 13th:
Neligh – 9:00 AM at the Neligh Senior Center
Pierce – 12:00 PM at the Pierce Senior Center
Burwell – 2:30 PM at The Spot (Formerly Barb’s Diner)
Ord – 6:30 PM at Scratchtown
By the time you read this, the legislature will have debated the governor’s tax relief proposal, LB 947. And hopefully, we will have debated a version of my LB 1084 as an amendment to another bill.
The approaches of 947 and 1084 are drastically different. LB 947 provides corporate income tax relief phased in over five years. It also provides for a refundable income tax credit based on the 2% of property taxes paid on ag land, and 1% paid on residential property, although many versions and amendments have been proposed. These amounts increase annually, with the ag refund growing by another 2% each year, to reach 20% in 10 years. The residential portion increases another 1% per year for five years, then grows at 2% per year until reaching 20% in thirteen years. However, residential credits are subject to a maximum of $25 dollars per home the first year, and growing to a maximum of $500 after thirteen years.
The amended version of LB 1084 raises the sales tax rate and cigarette taxes, reinstates the alternative minimum tax, repeals the personal property tax exemption, and places a surtax on high incomes. The revenue raised is then used to restore the remaining one year of cuts to K-12 education contained in last year’s LB 409, to fund a 30% allocated income tax similar to that found in the original TEEOSA formula, to fund $500 per student aid to all school districts, to fund an additional $80 million to special education reimbursement, and to further fund the property tax credit fund.
LB 1084 will also place a two year property tax asking cap on local school districts, and will call for a comprehensive study of how K-12 funding in Nebraska is structured.
As the legislature compares the proposals, I have asked my colleagues several questions. First, which proposal provides immediate and substantial property tax relief, and which proposal defers relief to many years down the road? Second, which proposal identifies how it is to be funded, and which proposal leaves it up to future leaders and future generations of Nebraskans to ensure it is paid for? Third, which proposal places limits on local taxing authorities to help ensure long term property tax relief, and which proposal does nothing to control property tax growth across the state?
For me, the answers to the above questions point in favor of LB 1084.
If you need to get in touch, the best way is to call my office and speak with my staff (or leave a message if you call over the lunch hour) at (402) 471-2631. My legislative website is news.legislature.ne.gov/dist41/ and my facebook page is at facebook.com/SenatorTomBriese. Lastly, be sure to sign up to my office’s mailing list to receive updates over the summer about town halls and events I will be holding near you. Sign up at: http://eepurl.com/dlRS6n