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Last week was deemed ‘Revenue’ week here at the capitol. More long days and nights of passionate and sometimes angry debates ensued as we tackled taxation issues among other things. With an unclear picture at the beginning of last week as to the state’s financial wiggle room, it was important to carefully weigh any bills with significant financial price tags.
After the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board met last Thursday, we received more answers. The revenue projections were raised to $90 million for the current fiscal year and lowered by $5 million for the second year of the biennium. That means there is about $40 million more available for tax relief or spending in addition to the already $211 million already obtained. Of that original $211 million, only $34 million remains if all bills that have already advanced past General File were to become law. That being said, there are still some funds available when deciding what the priorities are for tax relief or where it should be spent.
A long 8 hours of debate last week was spent discussing LB 364, a bill that would create a tax credit scholarship program to help more low-income students attend private and parochial schools. As introduced, the bill would have provided tax credits to people or businesses that donate to a designated private or parochial school scholarship fund. The original bill would have allowed the Department of Revenue to grant $10 million in credits in 2022, then if at least 90 percent of the credits in any given year are claimed, the annual limit would increase by 25 percent. A Revenue committee amendment was pending to limit the total amount of credits available each year to $5 million. Elkhorn senator, LouAnn Linehan, who introduced this bill and other similar bills in the past, argued that this legislation gives educational choices and opportunities for every child in the state. Another supporter, Senator Justin Wayne, said that the achievement gap for black students had grown and that parents are asking for school choice limited by option enrollment. Those that opposedLong and late debates on revenue issues the bill argued that; it did not address the underlying factors that cause the achievement gap in the first place, that it would primarily benefit only wealthy donors, and it is a tax loophole that wouldn’t benefit contributors to other charitable organizations. The bill stalled on General File after it faced a filibuster and a failed cloture motion vote.
A resolution, introduced last week by North Platte senator, Mike Groene, was written to protect Nebraskans against government overreach at the federal level. LR 107 objects to intrusions of the federal government into such issues as religious freedom and Second Amendment rights to vaccinations, land usage and elections. There are over 30 senators who signed onto this resolution, including myself. It is scheduled for a hearing this week before the Executive Board of the Legislature. With passage of this resolution, the Legislature will send a message to both the state and federal delegation saying we wish to preserve the integrity of both Nebraska’s State Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.
I hope after having had a long weekend, we can come back this week refreshed and ready to conquer all the tough issues and decisions ahead.