Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 42nd 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.
Sen. Mike Groene
Over the last two years we, in rural Nebraska, have witnessed the gradual slowdown in our state’s economic activity. Locally, declines in agriculture commodity prices and a decrease in railroad coal and consumer goods shipments have lowered business and family incomes, thus lowering income and sales tax revenues. Over and over again a few rural senators reminded our colleagues that we needed to control spending this past session because a looming economic slowdown was spreading from rural to urban areas. Our warning was ignored. Instead commitments to the lobby were funded. A few examples were: $25 million to the University of Nebraska for a virtual reality medical training facility, $8 million for a private university’s new dental college, sales tax exemptions for tourists visiting zoos and for commercial grain drying fuels. We also made the bandage bigger over the festering sore of confiscatory property taxes by adding another $140 million of income and sales tax receipts to the Property Tax Relief Fund, totaling $428 million for the biennium. Some good may actually come with a budget crisis, without state tax-dollars to throw at the problem, just maybe we will actually address the underlying causes of our burdensome property taxes.
So today, it is no surprise that we have the beginnings of a budget crisis. There is an estimated $113.7 million budget shortfall in this year’s existing fiscal budget that ends July of 2017. Before we even start the session in January the legislature already faces an estimated $353 million shortage in funding for the next biennium budget. The expected shortage is partially due to the passing of legislation this past year that added $234 million in new spending; that starts in the new budget cycle.
I am firmly against any attempt to call for a Special Session to address the budget shortfall. I agree with the Governor’s four step directive to state agencies to not spend to their budget limit, as the correct approach. It would be wise for all government entities funded by state tax dollars, including public schools, community colleges, and UNL to adopt the Governor’s course of action.
It is apparent that the University of Nebraska’s leadership does not live with the same economic realities the rest of us do. They have come out with a proposal for the legislature to increase their funding 4% annually the next two years, amounting to $70 million. That will not happen; I believe they will be fortunate to only have their funding froze. We may have an opportunity to find out how good a fiscal manager our new University president is.
Mike Lucas, superintendent of York Public schools, in his Guest column printed last Tuesday in a local paper “Myth busting: Public schools and Property taxes” reaffirms what a group of senators, including myself, are trying to address with legislation to fix the disproportional distribution of state aid through the TEEOSA formula that favors large urban school districts. His example of his school district’s funding does not hold true state wide. It is not a myth that statewide property taxes have skyrocketed in the past eight years, going from $2.72 billion to $3.78 billion. Schools take the most heat because they take the largest share, increasing from $1.63 billion to $2.28 billion over the same period of time. Statewide, his claim of lack of support from taxpayers does not hold true, total spending of property taxes plus state aid has increased from $2.46 billion to $3.23 billion. Taxpayers need not apologize for a lack of adequate funding for public schools and as to his claim that some public officials and institutes “want to see public schools harmed“, I have yet to meet one of those individuals he speaks of. But some of us are trying to understand why all the additional financial support has not improved educational outcomes as promised by the education lobby. I have visited with Mr. Lucas during Education Committee hearings, I am sure he does not believe classroom results can be purchased with more tax dollars, I personally have more faith in our classroom teachers than to accept that assumption.
I promised I would not take political donations from special interest Lobbying groups. The reality is that unless you are Donald Trump, to get your message out you must have financial help from donors. I have only taken donations from individual citizens and private business owners who actually have a soul and can vote in elections.
Recently, the State Chamber of Commerce put out their rating of Nebraska’s 49 state senators. After looking over the nine legislative actions that the chamber deemed friendly to them, and finding that I finished dead last in their approval ratings, I have come to this conclusion: I have never been more convinced that my decision to not take lobbyist money and instead represent individual voters was one of the wisest decisions I have made.
The nine votes the Chamber deemed Pro big business:
1) LB176 Corporate ownership of swine from birth (farm) to Grocery store shelf. This legislation was pushed by the Chinese owned Smithfield Foods corporation. I voted NO.
2) LB1059 Amendment 2067 Allowed Quality Growth Fund (LB840) money for workforce housing. Most of the language of the bill I agreed with, which added transparency to incentive programs; but I strongly disagreed with the housing section. In a free market system, a business should pay enough for an employee to house their family or a family should downsize their preference for housing that fits their paycheck. Corporate Nebraska apparently believes the taxpayer should build their employees homes. Voted NO on bill.
3) LB1022 Extend sunset dates on corporate Nebraska Advantage Act tax credit incentives. The Act’s intent was to create good paying jobs in Nebraska. Nebraska has one of the most generous tax avoidance business incentives in the nation. Since its inception in 2006, $277 million in taxes have been abated so far out of $676 million tax credits earned. I agreed with most of LB1022, which gave the Legislative Performance Audit Committee access to more information to better evaluate the program. My No vote was for two reasons: A) I disagreed with political shenanigans used to extend the sunset dates on the Advantage Act from 2018 to 2022. Economic development legislation normally goes to the Revenue Committee but instead the amendment to extend the sunset dates was assigned to and added to LB1022 in the friendlier Executive Committee, B) Extending the sunset date had nothing to do with the original intent of the legislation dealing with a Performance Audit of the Act. The legislature should adhere with the original intent of the Act. The Act needs to be revised, adding more transparency and mandating more proof that new jobs are being created that would not exist without the Act.
4) Senator Schumacher’s AM2398 to LB1022. It would have only extended Advantage Act sunset date one year instead of three. Voted YES. Chamber wanted a NO vote.
5) LB1093 Expanded incentives for business to hire student interns. Expanded to include 11th and 12th grade high schoolers. I missed the vote on amendment. I voted YES on the passage of the bill. Apparently that wasn’t good enough for the State Chamber.
6) LB1083 Small Business/Startup Growth. Created a legislative task force to research existing and proposed new incentives’ effectiveness. I voted YES.
7) LB754 Military and Veterans Commission. Work as a liaison between United States military and local governments to maintain and keep present military facilities here and campaign to add additional duties for those facilities. Voted Yes.
8) LB690 Transportation Infrastructure Bank. Created a fund to speed up repairs on road infrastructure in Nebraska. I voted Yes.
9) LB947 Professional licenses for children of individuals who are in our country illegally. I have always been a proponent of “rule of Law”. Immigration law is a federal issue. States should not create sanctuary legislation that gives federal law breakers the same rights as American citizens. I had no choice but to oppose this legislation.
Fact is that political donations by special interests works, votes are bought. I sleep well at night knowing I am free to vote for what is good for individual Nebraskans. I am a huge proponent of free enterprise, but corporate greed in lieu of good government, not so much.
Lincoln County for another year just finished up our annual NEBRASKAland days and Sutherland Fourth of July celebrations. Every community in the county has its own celebration: Brady, Wellfleet, Maxwell and Wallace; and we also have the Lincoln County fair coming up later this month. I participated by walking in the NEBRASKAland Days and Sutherland parades. What struck me was the true meaning of these events: the coming together of families and friends along the parade route, great-grandparents all the way down to infants. No one identified by their occupation, or positions of authority. Just Americans of all stripes getting together to take pride in their community. The parade route serves as the best feedback I can get from constituents. It just takes a short shout out from a citizen to get their point across. Long dissertations are not needed.
My wife and I enjoyed Sutherland’s old-fashioned picnic lunch and after the parade, we had pie and ice cream at the community’s public school. All the activities were coordinated by volunteers — only in America.
The rest of this week, I headed back to the political reality of Lincoln to meet with other elected state leaders, public government agency officials and representatives from special interest groups to discuss proposed legislation.
There are 25 Unicameral seats out of 49 total being contested this year, 12 elections will bring new senators because of term limits. The influx of new senators and their ideas leads to a lot of speculation as to who will be elected to committee chairmanships. Those senators who are returning are all positioning themselves for the next year’s chairmanship elections and which committees they want to serve on. So in order to stay in the loop and also represent you the best that I can, I have to stay in contact with the happenings behind the scenes in Lincoln. I still plan on supporting a move to change the rules to have all legislative votes for leadership positions conducted as a public vote. I believe there will be a move to change the present secret vote to a public one at the beginning of next session. The public should know every vote that their representative makes. Secret votes lead to vote trading and other unethical political practices.
Other issues that I am working on this week:
Property taxes in relation to public school financing: Everyone in Lincoln knows that the present State Aid to schools formula (TEEOSA) is unfair to property taxpayers. They also know that the state which is rated as low as 49th nationally in state support of public schools is dumping the cost of public education on the property tax payer. Overall, according to the US News and World report study, Nebraska is 18th in overall support of public education. The fact is that the property tax payer in Nebraska is carrying the burden in support of public education. It is time we fix the inequity. Therefore, I am meeting with representatives of the State Education Department, Farm Bureau, Farmers Union, Cattlemen Association, Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association and others to gain insight and agreement. Property tax reform will take comprehensive changes to government spending trends, reshaping our taxation ratios between property, income and sales taxes and changing how we fund our schools.
NCORPE and our Lincoln County groundwater issue: I plan on presenting some type of legislation dealing with the issue. I will be meeting with individuals from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Departments of Agriculture along with other farm organizations. It has been good to learn that the new director of DNR, Jeff Fassett, has been meeting regularly with officials from Kansas and Colorado to look at joint solutions to the Republican River over-appropriation problem.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office email@example.com or 402-471-2729 with any comments, questions or concerns.
About 32 percent of the state’s general fund spending goes to state aid to individuals, more commonly referred to as welfare programs. The $1.4 billion we spend in state tax dollars is on top of the $1.9 billion federal tax dollars supporting welfare programs in Nebraska. Another $257 million is spent by the state just to administer and operate the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Welfare programs are a necessity. We have citizens, through no fault of their own, who are physically or mentally disabled. They need our assistance. What has concerned taxpayers is the management of those tax dollars spent on programs that are meant for transition help for citizens who have due to personal health, substance abuse, or family issues found themselves in need of temporary help. The problem is that once in the maze of welfare programs, it is hard to get out; compare it to a lousy job you may have had: you have to weigh the risk of losing the family income you now receive through your present job with the wish for better employment. Welfare parents face the same issue: risk the security of welfare with the uncertainty of a new job. Welfare eventually becomes an intergenerational lifestyle.
At present, a parent has to deal with multiple agencies and contacts, applying for Aid to Dependent Children(ADC) through the “Temporary Assistance to Needy families (TANF) federally funded program, food stamps (SNAP), child care subsidies, child support enforcement (the courts), Medicaid eligibility, and in many cases, attend substance abuse programs. Welfare participation itself becomes a full time job and distracts from the parents ability to concentrate their efforts on gaining employment through the Employment First (EF) program.
So when officials from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) came to my office this past session with an inquiry, “Would North Platte be a good candidate for one of the two proposed ‘Family Focused Case Management in Economic Assistance Pilot Programs’ in Nebraska” with the goal to allow families to become permanent, proud, self-sufficient members of society, with the added taxpayer benefits of reducing the cost of TANF, SNAP, child care assistance, and Low-income Home Energy assistance programs. I strongly agreed that North Platte would be a good location for the pilot program.
The program will kick off this July and be administered locally by the TANF’s programs private contractor ResCare locally managed by Jennifer Brandt. Two DHHS Family Coach positions will be created who will focus on the 115 (at present time) families in North Platte who are eligible for both ADC and EF programs. The coaches will become the primary contact for participant parents. They will be the liaison between the parent, schools, court system, probation, and the Economic assistance and Protection and Safety divisions of DHHS. To eliminate misunderstandings and miscommunications of what is expected from all concerned there will be team meetings with the family and community agencies to develop assistance and interventions aimed at moving families to self-sufficiency. The coaches may also help participants make contact with faith-based organizations, renew contacts with extended family members, and help get them involved in positive peer influencing local support groups. Imagine, why someone didn’t think of this before, everybody on the same page and accountability being achieved through peer pressures and expectations of success.
Governor Ricketts has assembled a great team at DHHS with Courtney Phillips CEO, Doug Weinberg as the Director of Children and Family Services, and Teri Chasten as Children and Family Services Administrator of the program. There is now hope that finally through this and other initiatives by the Governor’s staff, an end has been put to the long time known territorial infighting and lack of communication that has plagued cooperation between DHHS departments themselves and other government entities.
All of us have received this year’s property valuations from the county assessor’s office. The unofficial countywide estimate is a 6.5 percent increase, which is following a 12.4 percent increase last year.
First off, do not put all the blame on the assessor or the county commissioners; the assessor has to follow assessment laws set by the unicameral and guidelines developed by the State Revenue Department. The county commissioners just send and collect the bill; they also listen to your valuation protests. Maybe your vigilance at the county level is why the county has done the best job of keeping its share of total tax dollar asking increases the lowest.
Valuation increases are not the problem. We pay our taxes in dollars. In many cases, there seems to be a perception by local government officials that if valuations go up, it is a given that they can take from you the same increase in tax dollars. Statewide, over the last decade there has been a 66 percent increase in property taxes collected from $2.3 billion to $3.8 billion. Community colleges have seen the largest increases — 129 percent ($204 million total revenue), followed by rural fire districts at 93 percent ($50 million), Education Service Units 87 percent ($34 million), public schools 65 percent ($2.3 billion), counties 63 percent ($601 million) and cities 53 percent ($369 million). Before you give city governments credit, remember that they have sources of taxation besides property taxes that other entities do not have, mainly sales taxes. These are statewide numbers; some local entities have taken advantage of taxpayers more than others. In the case of the community colleges, two colleges — Northeast and Central — have been responsible for driving up a large portion of the college’s statewide average.
There is a basic reason why citizens are upset about rising property taxes. In the same 10-year period, Nebraskans’ mean household income has fallen 3.7 percent from a high of $54,642 in 2008 to $52,686. Each year, property taxes are consuming a larger percentage of Nebraskans’ incomes.
As a state senator, I am working on passing legislation in an attempt to rein in spending by local taxing entities. We have given property tax credits of $224 million annually, which in my opinion has done as much harm as good; the credit actually enables local entities to raise taxes by allowing them to hide their increases behind the state’s credits. Through LB 959, I helped get rid of one of the main excuses by school administrators for not lowering tax rates. The legislation eliminated the minimum tax levy mandate, which in the past took away state school aid if they went below the minimum. School boards can now lower their rates without penalty.
But if you want concrete property tax relief, you need to demand it from your local boards at the community college, public schools, ESU, city council, natural resource district and county commissioners. Ask them why a superintendent’s $10,000 raise is more important than tax relief; why, while your health care insurance has diminished and increased in cost, the community college still pays 100 percent of employees’ premiums; and why, while your income has decreased, some taxing entities continue to reward annual 3 percent-plus raises, well above inflation.
If we complained as much to all local elected officials as we do to the county commissioners, just maybe your property taxes would go down. Gov. Dave Heineman used to say property taxes are local; he was mainly correct. You elect local officials to manage your local affairs; they are not there to just observe management.
On February 25, 2016, the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard the introduction of LB792 by Senator John Kuehn.
LB792 sought to provide a “cooling-off period” for certain elected officials and public employees after leaving office and being employed as a lobbyist.
LB792 was indefinitely postponed on April 20, 2016 in a motion brought by Senator Kate Sullivan.
You can read the hearing transcript for LB792 by clicking the attachment below.
Last night, May 25th, I took part in a “Where’s the Tax Relief” Town Hall forum sponsored by The Platte Institute for Economic Research. It was held here in North Platte. Senators Dan Hughes from District 44 and Senator Matt Williams from District 36 joined me on a discussion panel.
My focal point was, “If we want to create a fair tax system, elected officials have to stop catering to only those with the strongest lobbyist.” Some tax relief was given last year, but only to a few special interest groups.
For example: last year we introduced LB717, legislation that would have given comprehensive property tax relief to all Nebraskans. It gained traction and was considered a viable solution, what derailed it was that urban senators did not want to face the fact that the state is not doing its fair share of supporting K-12 public education. Although Nebraska, according to the last US News and World Report, was 18th in the nation in overall spending on public education, we rate at the bottom, 49th in state support of our schools. The fact is, the state dumps support of our schools on property tax payers.
It was frustrating being a member of the Legislature to see the lack of overall rationale for legislation concerning taxes. During last summer’s joint Revenue/Education committee interim study on the relationship of property taxes to how we fund public education, we were presented by the Chairman of the Revenue Committee with information that Nebraska exempts many more items from sales taxes than most states do, thus forcing more reliance on property and income taxes.
So I was a little amazed that the Revenue Committee presented LB774 and LB884, and more astonished that they passed. LB774 expanded sales tax exemptions to drug treatment centers, and for the fuel cost for commercial grain drying facilities. It also added tax breaks for some low cost housing owners. LB884 extended the area around three sports complexes: Lincoln’s Pinnacle Arena, Omaha’s Century Link Center, and the Ralston Arena. The total cost to the state’s tax base through 2020 was almost $25 million.
We led a filibuster to defeat LB423 in 2015, a $75 million tax credit scheme for special interest in the electricity generating windmill industry. At that time, they told senators they could not be profitable without the addition of state tax credits. Ironically, in 2016 the wind lobby was back with LB824, telling us that they could build windmills profitably without state tax credits, but needed relief from some state regulations.
The point is that any attempt to address a comprehensive tax relief program is hampered when we continue to give tax breaks to those entities that spend the most dollars to lobby elected officials. It becomes even harder when we do not control government spending, which is fodder for another column. Someone has to pay the bills and it is you: the working and retired middle class along with the small businessperson who shoulder the burden.
The good news is, I think after pressure from citizens, this last session and reinforced by recent primary election results, some hard headed politicians are starting to get the message. Next session looks promising for tax reform.
As printed in the North Platte Telegraph:
You decide what truth is. The present North Platte Community Redevelopment Authority (NPCRA) was created in 1999. At that time, present members Jacobson and Stefka were appointed for 5 year terms. That same year, the NPCRA issued their Public Policy Statement, which includes Article 5, the $350,000 excess value barrier. To present date, North Platte has not approved a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) project under that amount. Meanwhile, statewide, of the 736 active projects, 162 projects are under NPCRA’s arbitrary number.
TIF was created in 1978, by Nebraskans, through a constitutional ballot election. Clearly, the debate at that time shows approval was based on the understanding that help was needed to redevelop blighted and substandard areas within older parts of towns. Since NPCRA’s Policy went into effect in 1999, there has not been any new TIFs approved in the oldest areas of North Platte—between Phillips Avenue and Rodeo Road and Newberry to Buffalo Bill Avenue.
Mr. Jacobson is correct, NPCRA’s arbitrary $5,000 application and up to $20,000 attorney fees reaffirm that small developers need not apply. He forgot to mention also, the negative effect that the CRA’s policy of diverting 25% of TIF proceeds into a redevelopment slush fund has on small projects. A local private contractor who builds a single home on West A will not qualify for TIF, but they will have to compete with a multi-unit project funded by undisclosed local investors using an outside corporate builder who with TIF, will have nearly a 30% cost advantage.
Mr. Jacobson stated, show us your plan: The city of Kearney’s redevelopment plan is a good place to start, city management vets the projects and then forwards to their CRA. They charge a $100 application fee. Administrative fees are $250 for projects under $250,000, $1,000 under $500,000, and $2,000 for everything above. They have an attorney on retainer; last year’s total legal fees were $9,565. Small projects are feasible in Kearney because they do not bond indebtedness; the developer is refunded only the excess taxes necessary to pay for approved documented infrastructure expenses. They wisely avoid the interest, legal, and bond issuance cost. Kearney selectively, no matter of size, approves projects that improve the face of the city.
Mr. Jacobson aptly avoids answering my question. Does the public have the right to be assured that elected and appointed public officials, or their close business associates, will not profit from their official actions? I would think the city council, for the sake of good government, will demand disclosure of who the investors are in any Limited Liability Company (LLC) that seeks TIF funding using a corporate builder as the front man. I plan on introducing legislation next year that will make it mandatory that any LLC that seeks local or state government funding must expose their investors.
Menards and other big box home improvement stores have built facilities in every mid-sized city in Nebraska; a John Deere dealer bound by a local franchise under corporate pressure to update facilities and a strip mall developer already in the process of construction before approval of their TIF is all the evidence needed to dismiss the notion that retail projects would not happen without TIF.
Mr. Jacobson falsely claims that I attack TIF; contrarily, my purpose is to protect its proper use. He also falsely claims the legislature has rejected any attempts at addressing problems in TIF law. In 2015, other senators and I introduced legislation that would have created for the first time, state oversight of TIF. A compromise was achieved in LB539 in which CRAs were added to the list of government entities that the state auditor may audit; believe me when I say audits will happen. In 2016, others and I introduced TIF legislation; as a first step, the Urban Affairs Committee asked us to get a legal opinion from the Attorney General’s (AG) office on some questionable TIF usage. We are in the process of seeking that opinion. Most of my colleagues understand that the original concept of TIF is being abused. Over the last 10 years the cost of TIF to local property tax bases has exploded from $26 to $66 million. Major legislation will happen.
Transparency and accountability: they go hand in hand to insure an outcome of good and open government. That fact was well stated in a recent local editorial “Public business requires openness” in relationship to public access to e-mails of government officials.
The need for unfiltered transparency in government was brought home again by a recent report on the Nebraska Tourism Commission issued by State Auditor Charlie Janssen. Irresponsible expenditures, double dipping of travel expenses, purchase of alcohol and cigarettes, poor oversight over an advertising account, and nepotism by the executive director were highlighted by the audit. Our local Lincoln County Visitors Bureau was mentioned twice in the audit, but only as references to State Tourism Commission personnel not reporting expenses correctly while conducting tourism business with our local county bureau. To put a stop to any rumors, correctly filed documents from our local county tourism office enabled the state auditor to reference misdeeds of the commission staff and did not implicate them in any of the wrong doing by the state tourism commission.
The lodging tax that funds the Nebraska Tourism Commission has grown appreciably, due mainly to higher motel rates and the propensity for each new generation of American families and businesses to travel more; over the last ten years, it has increased from $3.2 million to $5.2 million. Locally, the lodging taxes collected by Lincoln County to fund our county tourism bureau have increased over the same period from $287,000 to $961,000. This fast growth of funding reinforces the need for vigilant oversight by taxpayers.
Friday, the Nebraska Tourism Committee placed its Executive Director Kathy McKillip on investigatory suspension, with pay. One would think the “with pay” will be for a very short period of time. Even if there is no proven criminal intent, the evidence is there for shoddy fiscal management practices that wasted tax dollars; grounds enough I would think for dismissal with cause. The Commission also passed a face saving motion to provide for more commission oversight of employee expenditures in the future. I will add that Lisa Burke, our Lincoln County Visitors Bureau Executive Director has only been a member of the commission since July of 2014, and her short time on the commission may have been a factor in the proper changes being made.
Next year there may be interest in the Legislature to take away the independence of the Commission and put control of it under the executive branch by inserting it back into the State Economic Development office. The makeup of the Commission also may be looked at; it presently is heavily weighted towards those who directly profit from tourism tax dollars. I will support both efforts if presented to the legislature.
The truth that needs to be emphasized is that all government entities are the property of the citizens and the taxpayers who fund them. Government officials who develop a mindset of ownership instead of as the public employee they are (one who is accountable to the people—their bosses) need to be confronted and replaced. More importantly, any appearance of crony capitalism where an official uses their appointment to enrich themselves or friends should be exposed, they should be publicly embarrassed and dismissed. So whenever you are lambasted by a present or past disgruntled elected or appointed public official, calling your queries into government toxic, ignore them; do not let corruption hide behind political correctness or a bullied sense of see-no-evil politeness. We owe it to the many good elected or appointed officials and public employees to not let the bad apples sully their reputations and hard work. I believe I was partially elected by you to ask the hard questions. I have found that rumors start with unanswered questions. In fact, I welcome any questions you may have about decisions I have made publicly or privately that are related to public issues. I guarantee, you will get an answer. Some may say: if you cannot take the heat then do not apply for a job in the kitchen.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-471-2729 with any comments, questions, or concerns.
May 25: Platte Institute Hosts North Platte Tax Relief Town Hall
Senators Groene, Hughes & Williams Provide Solutions for Reform
NORTH PLATTE, NE (May 10, 2016) – The Platte Institute for Economic Research will host a panel and town hall program with Nebraska State Senators Mike Groene (District 42-North Platte), Dan Hughes (District 44-Venango) and Matt Williams (District 36-Gothenburg) on the subject of comprehensive tax reform in the 2017 Nebraska legislative session.
The event is the first live town hall program in Western Nebraska as part of the Institute’s Strong Roots Nebraska campaign for tax relief. The town hall will be held on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at the Quality Inn & Suites Sandhills Convention Center (2102 S. Jeffers St. North Platte, NE 69101) from 5:30–6:30 p.m. CT
Comprehensive tax reform means looking at Nebraska’s whole tax structure to make changes that better promote economic growth by expanding the tax base and reducing tax rates. Free event registration is available online for the public and the media at taxtownhall.eventbrite.com. An event flyer is attached in PDF format.
The Platte Institute’s Strong Roots Nebraska campaign engages Nebraskans about the need for tax relief to address state economic challenges — including job and wage growth, retirement security, and out-migration — and provides workable solutions for creating a more attractive tax climate.
The program entitled, “Where’s the Tax Relief?: What will it take to make meaningful reforms to Nebraska’s tax system?” will include a panel segment hosted by Platte Institute CEO Jim Vokal and a town hall-style segment with open format questions and comments from the audience.
“Voters have been crystal clear that tax relief is a top priority for them. But Nebraskans of all political backgrounds have been underwhelmed by the pace of change in the Legislature, and feel that more needs to be done to address the state’s tax policies,” said Jim Vokal, Chief Executive Officer of the Platte Institute. “The Band-Aid approach to tax relief isn’t working because any gains can easily be undone by changing circumstances at the state and local level. This tax relief town hall will give the senators an opportunity to put forth bigger, bolder options for reform and get immediate feedback from constituents,” said Vokal.
The Tax Foundation ranks Nebraska’s state and local tax policies on the high side for the region and the country. Per person property tax collections rank 13thhighest in the country, while the state’s top personal and corporate income tax rates rank 16th highest. Nebraska also levies other economically inefficient taxes many states are turning away from, including taxes on tangible personal property and inheritance taxes.
Nebraska’s business tax climate is ranked 27th, behind every neighboring state except Iowa and worse than the top five states that have received the most income from Nebraska due to tax migration since 1992 (Texas, Florida, Arizona, Colorado and Missouri).