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Thirty-two days remain in this legislative session. Last week began with us voting to have owners of all-terrain vehicles (ATV) pay sales taxes at dealerships instead of at courthouses; I voted for the bill. We ended the week discussing LB240, which would continue a taxpayer funded University of Nebraska Medical School outreach program that encourages mental health screenings for children. I am against continuing the program. This week will start by continuing debate on LB240.
LB106 deals with livestock expansion and local control. A good bill got through the first round. The Department of Agriculture, collaborating with experts from the University of Nebraska, county zoning officials, and livestock producers, will create a model zoning plan for large livestock operations. Counties and individual producers will have a central location to gain ideas on best practices when considering large livestock operations without a mandate. LB106 is more pertinent to urban counties as they seek cooperation between agriculture and individual housing.
LB610 is a six cent gas-tax increase. I am against the bill as is. I used the bill to make a point on high property taxes. Our state roads are rated in the top 10 nationally, but we have a serious deficiency in funding bridge repairs at the local level. State law requires that counties and cities match state funding received from gas taxes by a minimum of 25% in property tax revenue. Currently, Lincoln County’s match is 47%, which is not uncommon statewide. I told the sponsors of the tax hike, I will vote for the bill on the first round if they consider an amendment that omits the state portion of the increase, and provides a small increase (2 to 3 cents) directly to counties and maybe cities specifically for bridge repairs. If we give counties more road funding, they ought to be able to lower their property taxes. However, I do not believe the lobby pushing LB610 will agree. In that case, I will vote against the bill that, with an unacceptable six cent increase, will leave Nebraska with the highest gas taxes among our neighbors.
LB128, Senator Chambers’s prairie dog repeal legislation, found major opposition on final reading. We spent Thursday debating it and closed the limited two-hour final reading debate by taking no action. Senator Chambers showed his displeasure by proceeding to shut down all votes on final reading which included my priority bill LB367.
LB419 is a bill that exempts zoos from collecting sales taxes on admissions and membership fees. I oppose LB419 because I promised the voters I will seek tax relief for all citizens. These attempts by special interests to seek special favors only increases the tax burden for the rest of us. My stance is: either everybody gets a tax break or nobody gets one. That philosophy helps explain my stance on Tax Increment Financing.
LB414 is another special interest tax exemption attempt. The Woodmen of the World is a fraternal benefit society and a nonprofit insurance company threatening to move to Iowa if portions of their office building are not exempt from property taxes. This is why I take no donations from lobbyists and special interests; they do not care about the greater good.
LB649 requires all votes cast by public officials to be public record. This goes back to the secret votes in the Unicameral for committee chairmen and speaker. It will be debated and probably lose, but a public vote will be taken on it, and voters will know which senators do and do not believe in a transparent government.
Sides are being taken on Medicaid expansion. Obamacare has been a disaster; it has done a lot of harm to working folks’ ability to afford healthcare and has left many without the ability to buy health insurance that, in the past, they could afford with their current incomes. Expanding Medicaid to irresponsible single individuals without children would be an injustice to those who sacrifice to pay for their family’s healthcare. We need to address affordable health insurance for those who wish to buy insurance but, because of Obamacare, are unable. Medicaid expansion is not affordable to the taxpayers.
Please don’t hesitate to contact your senator’s office as we appreciate your input.