This session is coming to a close. The Speaker has announced the legislature will “Adjourn Sine Die” on Tuesday the 23rd of May. “Sine Die” is Latin for “without day.” It means to adjourn without any future date being designated to resume the session, thus will end the first session of the 105th legislature. It will be good to get out of Lincoln and back up to the Sandhills, but I’m disgusted by how little actually got done this session. I suppose we can take comfort in the words of Mark Twain, “No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.”
The Tax Increment Financing bill (LB 496) was debated and defeated in a filibuster this week. I voted against it because the TIF program has grown far beyond its original purpose of urban renewal for blighted areas. TIF provides property tax breaks to encourage these sorts of projects in the poor part of town. Instead, LB 496 would have included the construction cost of private housing for new development projects. This is not what TIF is supposed to be for. The true purpose of property taxes is for members of a community to equally share in the funding of our public safety, schools, and common infrastructure. That’s not what LB 496 did. Sen. Mike Groene (North Platte) said this bill “is an outrage against good government and a strong statement on the power that special interest has on politicians through campaign donations.” I agree. I’m glad it was defeated.
I said last week that I was afraid we were “kicking the can down the road” on the budget problem by using some accounting tricks like reducing our cash reserves and using “creative financing” by making unrealistic future revenue projections. The Governor saw this same set of circumstances and used his line-item veto authority to cut another $32.5 million in spending from across a number of programs. I voted to uphold the vetoes and have issued a separate press release on this subject. The State’s tax collections are still on a downward trend. April’s numbers were $55 million short of what was forecast. Even with the Governor’s vetoes we may not be out of the woods on the budget yet.
I realize people depend on tax-payer dollars to fund programs they have come to depend on, but we had to balance a budget with a $1 billion deficit. The many lobbyists and special interest groups who contacted my office, came to the Capitol, and called me off the floor spoke with a loud voice. I wish this same passion could be generated to defend ordinary Nebraskans being crushed by property taxes. I care about the people dependent on government programs with exactly the same enthusiasm I care about the Nebraskans who have to pay the taxes that fund this State spending.
Next week I will outline the interim studies we have introduced, and will continue to work on a schedule of town hall meetings in the district over the summer. Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (402) 471-2628.