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Senator Tom Briese introduced a bill today to carry out an efficiency audit of state government. LB213 would require an outside audit of all state agencies of Nebraska government, looking for efficiencies that can save the state money and improve services to Nebraskans. Briese said, “I’ve introduced this bill to complement and build upon the great work of the Ricketts administration in making our state government more efficient. As elected officials, I believe we have a solemn responsibility to the taxpayers to be good stewards of their dollars. I think most people across the political spectrum want to see tax dollars used to get as much ‘bang for their buck’ as possible. That’s why I introduced LB 213.”
Briese went on to say, “I strongly believe that we should do everything we can to make sure that every tax dollar is accounted for, and that every tax dollar is being used in the most efficient way possible. This is a principle you see in almost every successful major business, and I have always believed that it is a good practice to run government like a business. When major companies want to save money, they hire experts in their fields, and experts in performance efficiency, to help them identify and carry out cost-saving measures that don’t hurt the end product or service that the company offers. That is exactly the principle here.”
Briese added, “When we’re talking about how we spend taxpayers’ hard earned dollars, we should never settle for the status quo. We should always be striving for improvement. And when some national rankings suggest our state government spending per capita and spending per GDP falls anywhere from 8th to 14th highest, I believe there is room for improvement.” Briese noted that in other states, where similar outside audits have been conducted, the return on investment to the state has been extremely favorable.
Finally, Briese concluded, “We aren’t talking about reducing government services or programs: we are talking about making sure that those services and programs are run responsibly, efficiently, and with as little waste, duplication of cost, or untapped potential as possible.”
Yesterday, I introduced a bill to guard against meritless lawsuits stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic that could set schools, businesses, nonprofits and government back in economic recovery.
As many segments of society struggle to deal with and rebound from the impact of the pandemic, they face the threat of needless lawsuits related to COVID. To help facilitate our recovery from the pandemic, it’s incumbent on us to provide some level of protection against such lawsuits while ensuring the safety of our citizens and holding bad actors accountable. This legislation will provide that reasonable level of assurance to our business, education, and healthcare communities.
My staff and I spent a great deal of time working with senators from both sides of the aisle, as well as a broad coalition of stakeholders. I have spent several months since the end of the last session working with small businesses, schools, and healthcare providers to craft this bill, in addition to consulting other senators.
I’m proud of the work that was done behind the scenes on this to make sure that these protections will be broad and serve the greatest number of Nebraskans in areas that have, in many ways, been the worst-hit by this pandemic.
I would note the hard work of Senator Matt Williams, District 36, who co-sponsored the legislation. Senator Williams is someone who is easy to work with, and I would say that’s pretty much a consensus in the body. Having his help and hard work in this process was really instrumental in getting it put together.
The bill, LB 139, would provide limited, temporary liability protection for those who comply with safety standards and regulations related to COVID-19. To ensure the safety of the public and provide a safe harbor against unnecessary lawsuits, the legislation would:
From the start, we knew it was important to hold irresponsible actors accountable, so it was important for us to include that language on gross negligence and willful misconduct. It also protects healthcare providers from meritless lawsuits when they were acting in accordance with certain guidelines recommended by public health officials,” Briese said. “Nobody has done more for our communities and our state than healthcare providers. The last thing our hometown heroes need is to worry about being sued for cancelling an elective procedure or an accidental exposure when they were doing the right thing all along.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Office of Senator Tom Briese, (402)471-2631
Senator Briese Introduces Property Tax Relief Proposal
Lincoln, NE – Senator Tom Briese of Albion announced today that he has introduced a bill that will put Nebraska on a path to reducing over-reliance on property taxes and adequately funding education in the state. Briese said, “This bill represents the culmination of a broad-based, bipartisan effort consisting of education groups and property tax interests including agricultural, residential, and commercial property taxpayers. The bill will provide the property tax relief that all hard-working Nebraskans deserve, while at the same time protecting the ability of our schools to prepare our young folks for the jobs and careers of the 21st century.”
Briese went on to say that his bill would provide immediate property tax relief, would identify the sources of revenue to fund the relief, and would provide soft caps to taxing authority to ensure long term property tax relief while protecting education. Noting Census Bureau data suggesting Nebraska is 49th in the country in the percentage of K-12 education funded with state dollars, Briese said, “For far too long, our state has relied too heavily on property taxes to fund our schools. Its time the state stepped up and funded its share of K-12.”
Finally, Briese stressed the significance of the various stakeholders and senators he anticipates backing his proposal. “Sustainable tax reform which protects education must travel a collaborative, bipartisan path. And I believe that path exists,” he said. He also stated, “Because of the many stakeholders involved, the bill was a product of much negotiation, and most likely adjustments to it will continue.” Finally, Briese noted, “I believe that Nebraskans deserve a fair and balanced tax structure. But I also recognize there is nothing we do that is more important than how we educate our children. This bill affirms both of those principles.”
The 2018 legislative session is only a few weeks away. It will begin on January 3rd, and will run until mid-April. I would like to take this time to give you some of my thoughts on the upcoming session, and to give you the opportunity to send me some of your thoughts.
During the 2017 session, much less was done in the legislature than many Nebraskans -myself included- had hoped. Several weeks at the beginning were slowed down by a contentious debate over the rules, and a number of controversial bills held up progress as they were each subjected to a filibuster. A budget shortfall of nearly a billion dollars meant that many state programs saw smaller increases in funding than they had been expecting, and a small number experienced cuts. In 2018, I believe that we will all anticipate some deja vu, as projected revenues have not yet begun to move upward again. This will mean another session of limited funds for new programs, and more time spent revising the budget.
I also know that property taxes will be a major issue once more. I will introduce bills addressing the burden of property taxes that our farmers and ranchers have struggled under for years, and which is now also shared by many of our friends in town. I am certain that other senators will also bring bills to tackle the issues of property taxes. Additionally, those who pressed hard last year for state income tax breaks will certainly keep up their efforts. I am hopeful, however, that a reasonable compromise can be reached, by which Nebraskans of all stripes can see the tax relief which will be the most beneficial to their communities, businesses, and families.
I’d also like to hear about what matters to you. As a favor to me, I ask that you take a short 5-minute survey on what life is like where you live, how you feel about some government services, and what issues matter the most to you. You can find the survey at surveymonkey.com/R/Briese2017 or by visiting my legislative website or facebook page and clicking on the link to the survey. I will take the feedback you give me extremely seriously, and I will use your thoughts to inform how I vote in the Legislature next year. I intend to make this a yearly way by which I can hear from all of you.
Finally, while I will continue to submit columns to this paper every two weeks during the legislative session, I’d like to invite you to sign up for my newsletter mailing list at eepurl.com/c-m87j. The link will also be available on my legislative website and Facebook page. I plan to use this to reach out to you in the future when the most important topics come up. I also encourage you to let your friends and neighbors know about both the survey and the newsletter.
Thank you so much for taking the time to give me your feedback, and for trusting me to represent the very finest people in our state.
Senator Tom Briese
Nebraska Unicameral Legislature
1445 K Street Room 1120
Lincoln, NE 68508
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Lincoln, NE – Nebraska State Senator Tom Briese today announced his support for a ballot initiative as part of a comprehensive plan to deliver property tax relief to the state. “Nebraskans from one end of the state to the other are demanding property tax relief,” Briese said. “And when we collect $1.2 billion more in property taxes than income taxes, and $1.5 billion more in property taxes than state, local and motor vehicle sales taxes, it’s clear that Nebraskans deserve that relief.”
“There were bills introduced this year that would have yielded substantial and significant property tax relief, but failed to make it to the floor of the legislature. The bills that did make it to floor debate would have yielded only minimal relief.”
“Many of us have the political will to deliver substantial and significant property tax relief. But the will of the legislature, yielding to outside interests, is questionable. That is why we propose taking this issue to the people by placing it on the ballot.”
“But property tax relief requires a multi-faceted approach. So rest assured that we will continue our efforts at property tax relief within the legislature. I anticipate that a package of proposals will be brought forth, including spending restraints, tying property tax relief to triggers, eliminating tax loopholes to replace property taxes, and valuation reform.”
“However, because of the uncertain political will to do what is needed within the legislature, I believe that a ballot proposal will be the cornerstone of any property tax relief package. And because of this uncertainty, I believe it is imperative that we get this issue to the voters.”
I would like to invite the high school students of the 41st district to participate in the Nebraska Unicameral Youth Legislature this summer from June 11 through 14 in Lincoln. This is a truly unique experience for students in Nebraska to experience out truly unique legislative body – from the inside!
The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students with an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate, or public speaking. Students will learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff. A number of $100 scholarships are available, as well as the Greg Adams Civic Scholarship, which covers the full cost of admission and requires a short essay submission.
There are few things more important to the future success of our nation, our state, and especially our rural communities than young people finding an interest and a passion in policy and civic engagement. If there is a high schooler in your life who might enjoy this program, please pass this information on to him or her.
The Unicameral Youth Legislature is coordinated by the Office of the Clerk of the Legislature. Housing and recreational activities are coordinated by UNL’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program.
For more information about this incredible program, go to www.Nebraskalegislature.gov/uyl or call (402)471-2788. The deadline for registration is May 15.
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