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As I write this, we’ve been in full-day debate for one week, and the tone of the legislature last week was not well. There is a lack of trust within the body, and certain members have already begun engaging in time-consuming behaviors. If this continues, late night floor debate may begin sooner than in previous years and could continue for the remainder of session. However, we were moving through bills rather quickly before full-day floor debate started, so we are not behind. Last week actually gave everyone some time to study bills and become prepared for the coming weeks.
We are merely days away from beginning the budget process. The budget will be based on the February 2019 revenue forecast by the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board (NEFAB) for the upcoming 2019-2021 biennium, and the forecast will be revised again in April. In general, the revenue forecast showed a decline in the rate of growth. According to the Nebraska Legislative Fiscal office, the 37-year average general fund revenue growth is 4.8%, adjusted for tax rate and base changes. The projected revenue growth for the current year is 4.3%. For FY2019-2020 NEFAB projected growth is 4.2%, and for FY2020-2021 NEFAB projected growth is 3.0%. Projected revenue growth for both of these years is lower than the current year and the historical average.
In addition, our state has immediate flooding expenses to factor in. I anticipate this budgeting process will be difficult because of all these factors. However, I am committed to pushing for property tax reform.
On a property tax note, LB483, Senator Erdman’s priority bill to change the valuation of agricultural and horticultural land. It was read on general file on March 20th, and Senator Erdman added an amendment to it to clarify language. Unfortunately this is a very complicated bill and most of the non-farmers in the body do not understand it. I am still not convinced the effort of changing from sales to income based valuations will be a benefit in the long run.
Another bill regarding property tax relief was Senator Linehan’s bill, LB512, which was read on the floor last Friday. This bill would have changed provisions related to property taxes. For example, if a person loses their house to a fire on January 3rd, it is currently taxed at 100% of the valuation for the remainder of the year. This bill would change that and give those who experience such losses relief from taxes since they would no longer be able to utilize their property. Even though this bill was filibustered by Senator Chambers, it should eventually pass as there is broad support for it.