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LB419 is a sales tax exemption bill for zoos and LB414 gave a property tax exemption to Woodmen of the World Insurance Company (a fraternal benefit society); both passed general file. Tourists and fraternal benefit societies will get tax breaks of $2.7 million and $800,000, respectively; but nothing so far for the individual taxpayer.
LB472, The Medicaid Redesign Act (expansion), was defeated for this year, but it will be back next year. It’s mislabeled as the affordable care act, but it is not affordable for the taxpayer.
LB519 relates to how the 50% of constitutionally mandated lottery funds – set aside for education – will be spent. As a member of the Education Committee I was able to play a part in the outcome. Of the nearly $17 million annually, 62% will be given out to college students as tuition aid. Mid-Plains students will be helped, along with students at public and private colleges who qualify. 20% will go to a new innovation grant program rewarded by The Department of Education to worthy programs submitted by individual K-12 schools. 9% will go to a new GAP program, which helps recruit students and aid them in tuition for certificate programs such as welding. I pushed for this addition, high-paying vocational tech jobs are available and GAP will encourage more high school and second chance students to gain the training necessary to qualify for these high-paying jobs. 1% will go to early childhood grants, and the remaining funds will go to an existing program to pay for teacher education; I did not see the necessity for this last program but compromise is necessary sometimes.
LB367 was my priority bill which deals with petition rights. It passed all three rounds without a single no vote, and was signed by the Governor.
LB498 dealt with ATV sales tax and registration. I voted for it, as it was presented by the bill’s author as a fix for where sales taxes were collected, dealer vs. courthouse. Thanks to citizen vigilance, a major flaw in the bill was pointed out. The bill mandated that, on top of titling your ATV, owners now had to register it since the grandfather clause for previous owners was mistakenly omitted. Rural senators, including myself urged the Governor to veto the bill. The bill’s author asked the Governor to veto and he did on Monday.
LR7CA was a proposed constitutional amendment to increase state senators’ term limits from two, four year terms to two, six year terms. It was defeated Monday on select file. The people have voted to support term limits; most recently in 2012 when they voted overwhelmingly to say eight consecutive years is enough.
With regard to Tax Increment Financing, there is a reason that we pay property taxes: to support our school districts, counties, community colleges, and local government entities. When a business seeks not to support local communities with their property taxes, it should be scrutinized by the citizens. Recently, you have been told that the constitutional amendment passed in 1978 by Nebraskans – dealing with TIF’s use to redevelop substandard and blighted property within a city – is somehow related to a 1951 redevelopment law, specifically, Neb. Rev. Stat. 18-2123 concerning undeveloped, vacant land. Also, diverting 25% of TIF proceeds away from a project through a loan program is problematic when looking at Neb. Rev. Stat. 18-2147, “… solely to pay the principle of, and the interest on…the project”. Who’s correct? We will start to answer this question with the passage of the Auditor’s bill LB539 and Senator Crawford’s AM653. The amendment adds, “any community redevelopment authority or limited community redevelopment authority established under the Community Development Law” to the long list of local government entities that the State Auditor’s office can audit. This legislation will not add any more state employees, it just fixes an oversight on what entities the auditor can audit. By the way during the same time span that Menards used TIF in North Platte, seven other like-sized communities added stores to their business community; all are paying their property taxes, including Kearney’s. As the saying goes, “There is no need to fear the policeman if you are obeying the law”.