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Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 47th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.
You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.
Sen. Steve Erdman
Last week I introduced what may prove to be the most important piece of legislation of my tenure as a Nebraska State Senator. Last Thursday I introduced LR 300CA, a Constitutional Amendment for a single-rate consumption tax. LR 300CA will fundamentally change the way we collect taxes in Nebraska, so, today I would like to tell you how this resolution will benefit our state.
First, this Constitutional Amendment would eliminate all other State taxes. Say Good-bye to property taxes, State income taxes, and State sales taxes. The only tax the State would be able to collect would be the single-rate consumption tax. Consequently, taxpayers will finally know how much they pay in taxes, because all of the other hidden taxes would finally go away.
Second, the consumption tax would never tax low income residents. Currently, those living below the federal poverty line pay sales taxes, but under my plan the State would pay it for them. The consumption tax comes with a monthly pre-bate which would protect low income folks from paying the State consumption tax. Each month the State would issue a pre-bate to every man, woman and child living in Nebraska equivalent to the amount of consumption taxes paid up to the federal poverty line.
Here’s how it works. The federal poverty rate for a single adult in 2020 is $12,490. So, a single adult making $12,490 per year would receive a monthly pre-bate in the amount of $110 to cover his or her monthly consumption tax burden. Similarly, a couple, regardless of their annual income, would receive a monthly pre-bate in the amount of $214.50. Moreover, a family of four spending $64,000 per year would have a consumption tax rate of only 5.30 percent after the prebate. So, the State would only keep the amount of consumption taxes paid by consumers above the federal poverty line.
Third, the consumption tax would only tax new goods and services, such as drycleaners, dog groomers, and garbage collectors. However, the situation would be much different for purchasing material or tangible goods.
When it comes to the sale of material or tangible goods, the consumption tax would only apply to the purchase of new goods. Used items would never be taxed. Consequently, consumers would never pay the consumption tax at garage sales and thrift stores, and this would provide even further benefits to low income individuals and families.
Fourth, the consumption tax would result in significant savings to the State. Several State agencies would be eliminated, such as the Property Assessment Division, the Tax Equalization & Review Commission, and the income tax arm of the Department of Revenue. Moreover, there would be no more need for the State’s several business tax incentive programs, such as the Nebraska Advantage Act, the ImagiNE Nebraska Act and Tax Increment Financing (TIF). Last year, for instance, these tax incentive programs cost the State $200 million in lost revenues.
By eliminating all of these taxes, Nebraska would become the most tax friendly state for both individuals and businesses. Nebraska would become the most sought after state to live in. Retired folks will want to live here and young people will want to stay here. Moreover, the single-rate consumption tax constitutes the ultimate incentive plan for enticing businesses to move to Nebraska. So many people and businesses will want to move to Nebraska that we will have to build a wall around our state and have Colorado pay for it!
A very important bill was introduced this week which deals with property tax relief. LB 974 was introduced by Senator Linnehan, who is chair of the Legislature’s Revenue Committee. Sen. Linnehan worked on this bill all year long in conjunction with the Governor.
LB 974 is a very complicated bill that is hard to explain in a brief article such as this. So, I will attempt to give you the Cliff Notes version of what this bill would do, or should I say, not do, for you, the taxpayer.
The bill is intended to reduce property taxes by 140 million dollars this year and then the following year it would reduce property taxes again by another 140 million dollars. Hopefully, after three years property tax relief would exceed 500 million dollars.
LB 974 is intended to take projected increases in revenue that the state receives every year and apply those revenues to property tax relief. However, bear in mind that last year property taxes across our State increased by an extra 200 million dollars. So if we give you back 140 million dollars but property taxes increase by 200 million dollars, how is that property tax relief?
That is a very peculiar way of giving property tax relief! So, if your property taxes increase by a certain amount, but we give a fraction of that amount back to you, how is that property tax relief?
The only way to reduce taxes overall is to cut spending. We have a Legislature which does not do a very good job of cutting spending. Let me say it another way: We don’t do it at all!
I appreciate the fact that the Revenue Committee worked hard all summer and fall to put together something that they think would help solve the property tax dilemma. But, as you can see by my comments, giving back a fraction of the tax dollars that the State has already taken from you in the form of a rebate is a very peculiar way of doing property tax relief.
LB 974 gets even worse. It appears that if the revenues did not increase for any given year, property owners would not get any property tax relief at all for that year.
So what is the solution? The solution as I see it is that we need to begin to do things differently than how we’ve done them in the past. We continue to think inside the box. We continue to think that we have to make all of our reductions fit in the inside of what we currently do. And when you do the same thing over and over again and expect different results; well, that is the very definition of insanity.
The first week of the 2020 Legislative Session is already in the books. Senators have only the first ten days of the session to introduce new bills. Some very important bills have already been introduced by others Senators. So, today I would like to tell you about a carry-over bill from last year that I will continue to support, two bills from the first week that I have already co-signed, and three bills I plan to oppose.
On Monday January 13 the Legislature will debate LB 153 on the floor of the Legislature. LB 153 is a carry-over bill from last year that would exempt fifty percent of retired military pay from the Nebraska State Income Tax. Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon introduced this bill on behalf of Governor Ricketts, and the bill already has bi-partisan support. I will support this bill because I believe we need to take care of our retired military personnel.
The most important new bill introduced by another Senator last week was LB 814 by Suzanne Geist of Lincoln. This bill prohibits the dismemberment of a baby during an abortion by using clamps, forceps, tongs, scissors or other similar instruments. It does not, however, prohibit the use of suction to dismember a fetus. Because I am a pro-life Senator, I co-signed this bill and stood with Sen. Geist at her press conference last Wednesday when she introduced this bill. Gov. Ricketts has also issued a proclamation to declare January 22 as a day to pray to end abortion in our state.
Another bill that I have already co-signed is LB 770 by Sen. Tim Gragert of Creighton. This bill provides free access to our state parks by our disabled veterans. Those veterans who have been honorably or generally discharged and who have suffered a fifty percent or more disability during their time of service would qualify for this special permit. This is something we can do to honor and support our disabled veterans.
Now, the first bill I will oppose is LB 754 by Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue. This bill allows individuals to change the sex on their birth certificate. I am against these kinds of bills which advance the sexual orientation and gender identity movement. Already, we have seen how sexual orientation and gender identity is destroying women’s sports by allowing boys to compete as girls. Legislators in three states, Georgia, Tennessee, and Washington, are introducing bills this year to use the sex on a person’s birth certificate to determine their participation in high school sports. Blood’s bill would effectively eliminate this kind of practice from ever being used by high schools in Nebraska.
The second bill that I will oppose from the first week of the Legislative session is LB 873 by Sen. Hunt of Omaha. This bill is somewhat similar to LB 812; however, this bill allows individuals to choose a new category called “Non” as their sexual identification on their birth certificate, driver’s license, or state identification card. By loading up the docket with these kinds of extremist pieces of legislation, these social activist Senators hope they will be able to sneak one through the Legislature someday.
The third bill that I will oppose is LB 816 by Sen. McCollister of Omaha. This bill adds semi-automatic rifles and shotguns to the list of those firearms heavily regulated by the state. The bill would limit the transfer of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns for a valid public purpose only. If this bill were ever to become law in Nebraska, you would be able kiss all recreational shooting, hunting, and competitive shooting with these kinds of weapons good-bye.
More bills will be introduced next week, including some that I will introduce. However, I hope this short summary gives you some perspective on what kind of Legislative session this year is turning out to be.
The Legislative session begins this week. Therefore, I would like to give my readers a heads-up about what to expect this year. While more than 500 new bills will get introduced this year, three carry-over bills will be very importance to me again this year. So, today I would like to tell you about these three very important carry-over bills from last year.
The most important carry-over bill is LB 289. LB 289 is the Revenue Committee’s property tax relief bill which was introduced by Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, who is also the chair. Property tax relief will be the hottest topic of the year.
The reason this bill is so important is because it fails to deliver on significant and meaningful property tax relief. If this bill ever passes into law, the losers will be everyone who owns real estate in Nebraska. LB 289 is nothing more than an attempt to dupe the public into believing that the Legislature has finally delivered on property tax relief when the total amount of relief is projected to be only $482 million in the first year of its implementation, which includes the $275 million which is already in the Property Tax Cash-Credit Fund. None of that money will go directly to taxpayers; instead, it will go to the tax spenders with the hope of reducing your property taxes. To pay for the loss in revenue, LB 289 would remove sales tax exemptions on many services, such as dog grooming services and dry cleaning services.
The second carry-over bill that I will be watching closely is LB720, which is the ImagiNE Nebraska Act. The ImagiNE Nebraska Act is intended to replace the Nebraska Advantage Act, which will sunset this year. The ImagiNE Nebraska Act is nothing short of corporate welfare.
When it comes to the ImagiNe Nebraska Act, the question needs to be asked, “Why is the State involved in economic development at all?” The Nebraska State Constitution never directs the State to incentivize new business. Moreover, these kinds of incentives undermine the nature of our free-market economy. Nebraska needs to learn how to be competitive without enticing new businesses with corporate welfare. Instead of incentivizing new businesses, I believe our priority should be to cut spending and lower taxes so everyone can benefit from lower taxes.
Finally, the third carry-over bill that will concern me greatly this year is LB 483, a bill for agricultural land valuation reform. Last year LB 483 advanced to General File, but stalled there. I believe I have enough votes to continue debate on the bill, but first the bill needs to be amended.
We have worked on fixing the issues. The biggest hurdle I’ve had to overcome on this bill is determining the capitalization rate. Last year certain urban Senators were concerned that the capitalization rate I came up with could be manipulated to benefit or harm farmers and ranchers across the State. Therefore, I will amend the bill this year with a new formula for the capitalization rate which should resolve this problem. Therefore, I hope to be able to advance the bill this year to Select File and Final Reading.
As far as new legislation goes, I have several other common sense bills that I will be introducing this year. They range from issues dealing with the Game & Parks Commission to setting speed limits in the Panhandle. As we move into the new legislative session, if you have questions or comments, please call my office at (402) 471-2616. Happy New Year!
As we round the corner from 2019 into 2020, let us reflect back on the year we just completed. 2019 was a very difficult year for many residents of Nebraska. We had a long, snowy winter followed by spring floods and even more blizzards, which resulted in some of the worst weather to hit our state since 1949. The snow and rain during the month of March left some Nebraskans without a home and others suffering great economic losses. Nevertheless, it was amazing to see how people stepped up to help those in need.
As I review the events of 2019 some of the bills I introduced helped make the lives of our citizens better off. For instance, I introduced LB 482, a property tax relief bill for those with destroyed properties. Little did I know when I introduced this bill how important it would become for those with destroyed properties. This legislation eased the burden of property owners who had their properties destroyed by the year’s natural disasters by allowing them to apply for a reduction in their property taxes so long as their property was damaged by at least 20 percent before July 1.
Looking ahead and into the future, anytime that a natural disaster occurs in our state before July 1, property owners will be able to get some much needed property tax relief by having their properties reassessed. This legislation has already saved Nebraskans millions of dollars in property tax relief.
Another bill that I am celebrating the passage of this year is LB 372, a bill which allows massage therapists to use mobile units. Because there was no opposition to this bill at the public hearing, it qualified for the Consent Calendar and passed unanimously with no opposition votes. Consequently, massage therapists can now take their practices to where their clients live, work, study and play. I introduced this bill on behalf of a constituent who works as a massage therapist.
During the interim period, when the Legislature was not in session, I had the opportunity to visit with many folks throughout Legislative District 47, which includes ten counties in the Panhandle of Nebraska. The concerns and issues they expressed are very important to me. Visiting with people and hearing their concerns tells me that there is a lot of work left to be done.
Recently I was visiting with a constituent who made the following comment to me, “It is a breath of fresh air to have someone that represents us and who really cares!” These are the kind of words that I cherish the most, because unless I am listening to the people and representing their best interests in the Legislature, I am not doing my job as a State Senator. Therefore, I want you to feel free to call my office with any of your ideas or concerns. That telephone number is (402) 471-2616.
When I was asked why I want to seek another four years in the Legislature, the answer I gave is the same answer I gave four years ago. And that is: Because I care about the people in my Legislative District and the people of Nebraska and I want them to know that I will continue to care!
Thank you for allowing me to represent you and thank you for reading my articles. May you have a happy and blessed New Year!
This week I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. As we come together as families to celebrate the holiest day of the year, my wife, Cathy, and I would like to offer our best wishes to you and your family.
Let us also pause to remember our brave men and women who are serving in the armed forces and who may be unable to be with their families for Christmas this year. Because of them, we may worship freely and enjoy all of the other liberties granted to us under the Constitution. To them we offer gratitude and recognition for all of the sacrifices they are making for us this year.
I would also like to extend my prayers to all of the farmers and ranchers across our State and thank them for all of their hard work this year. It is their hard work which drives the economy here in Nebraska, and so they make us very proud.
In addition, I also want to recognize all those who run our small businesses, teach in our schools, police our roads, and who respond to our emergencies because they are the glue which holds the fabric of our society together. And to everyone else living in Legislative District 47, let me extend my wishes for a blessed holiday to you as well.
Finally, I recently saw a meme which I believe reflects the true meaning of Christmas. The meme depicted a manger with a caption which read, “One unplanned pregnancy saved us all.” Of course, the caption was referring to the virgin birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ.
May your Christmas holiday be filled with love, peace and good cheer, and may God bless you richly!
The people of Western Nebraska are some of the hardest working and most values driven people in America. Whenever disaster strikes, we come together as a community and rebuild. We help our neighbors, we are civic-minded, and we work together to make our communities strong.
Perhaps the best evidence of what I am talking about is the resurgence of the city of Sidney after the 2017 sale of Cabela’s Sporting Goods Store to Bass Pro Shops. When Tucker Carlson of Fox News exposed the vulture capitalism of Paul Singer for orchestrating the sale of Cabela’s through his Elliott Management hedge fund, he cast the city of Sidney in a negative light as if it has remained in a perpetual state of hopelessness and despair ever since the merger, but nothing could be further from the truth.
The people of Sidney never took the sale of Cabela’s lying down. Even after losing two thousand jobs, the city has rebounded. Instead of caving into a spirit of hopelessness and despair, the people came together and rebuilt their own town. The people who live in Sidney today, live there because they want to live there. Nobody is stuck or being held captive by the housing market in Sidney today. Contrary to the opinion of Tucker Carlson, more than one thousand new family units have moved into the city and today there are only 72 houses for sale in the city.
The citizens of Sidney are a resilient people who have overcome these kinds of obstacles several times throughout their history. The city faced similar problems during the Black Hills gold rush, the oil boom, and when the military relocated its fort and its weapons depot, and every time the city has found a way to recover.
I believe Sidney will become an even stronger city than when Cabela’s was headquartered there. Since the sale of Cabela’s 24 new businesses have moved into the city. Sidney is becoming stronger because it no longer has to rely upon one primary employer. As more and more small businesses move to Sidney, the city will only grow stronger and more resilient to economic changes.
Despite the loss of some two thousand jobs, the school system in Sidney has done remarkably well. Attendance in the schools has remained steady and academics have excelled. Sidney High School, for example, was recognized this year as one of only six high schools in Nebraska to receive the National Blue Ribbon Award. The award is given to schools for academic performance and for closing the achievement gaps among various student subgroups.
I believe it is important for the nation to see how Sidney has recovered from the sale of Cabela’s. In many ways, Sidney has become the model for cities with similar circumstances. Instead of throwing in the towel, the resilient people of Sidney took back their city and have transformed it into a jewel of Western Nebraska.
The HVAC renovation work at the Capitol Building in Lincoln is proceeding nicely. As many of you know, my office was temporarily relocated up to the twelfth floor of the Capitol Building’s tower during the first phase of the HVAC renovation project. However, the first phase is finally coming to an end. So, my new office will be in Room 1124, which is located on the south side of the first floor of the Capitol Building. Whenever you come to Lincoln, please feel free to stop by and say, “Hello.”
November is usually the month we reserve for giving thanks. Thanksgiving is an American tradition that we usually trace all the way back to the first pilgrims, who had much to be thankful for, especially after enduring a long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean on rough seas, a harsh winter, fatal diseases, and even starvation due to lack of food. In spite of all of their suffering, they chose to give glory to God and return thanks for his abundant provision. Above all else, they considered themselves to be blessed for finally having the freedom to worship God in their own way.
I have chosen to write on the subject of giving thanks early this year because I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul in the Bible when he said, “Be thankful” (Colossians 3:15) and “Give thanks in all circumstances,” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Just as I wrote last week about honoring our veterans throughout the year and not just on Veterans Day, I believe giving thanks is also something that should be done throughout the year and not just on Thanksgiving Day. A truly thankful person gives thanks all year long.
So, give thanks no matter the circumstances. In spite of whatever fate we may be facing this year, especially due to the recent blizzards, floods, or loss of crops, let us remember to give thanks for all that we do have. Like the pilgrims, let’s remember how God has blessed our nation with liberty and justice for all. We have successfully repelled all foreign invaders, and we have been the voice of freedom throughout the world. Our economic prosperity, our freedoms, and even our right to own a gun all remain the envy of the world.
While the right to life is guaranteed to us in the Declaration of Independence, life itself is only temporary. God is the giver and taker of life, and only two things are really ever guaranteed to us in this life, namely death and taxes. So, let’s enjoy what we have while we still have the time to do so and before the government takes it away from us. The pilgrims had a favorite proverb which said, “We live and then we die.” The point of the proverb is to enjoy life and to celebrate all that God has blessed you with while you still have the time and the means to do so.
Finally, I am thankful many things. I am thankful for my wife, my three sons and their wives, and my nine grandchildren. I am thankful for my staff and I am thankful for the opportunity to serve and represent all of the folks of Legislative District 47.
The Grave Stone of Mr. John Ogden
The winged skull means, “You live and then you die.”
In Western Nebraska the term, “Big Mac,” often refers to something much bigger than a hamburger. Lake McConaughy, or Big Mac, is the aquatic pride and joy of the Panhandle, and, yes, it is much bigger than a hamburger.
I recently attended a fundraiser at Lake McConaughy that was sponsored by the Ogallala Rotary Club. In fact, this year marked the fourth time I attended the Kayak Big Mac. Kayak Big Mac is the Rotary Club’s annual fundraiser for water projects.
This year the Ogallala Rotary Club set out to raise money to pay for swimming lessons for needy children. Water safety is essential in watery places like Big Mac, so it is important that all kids know how to swim.
Kayak Big Mac brings in people from out of town and gets them outdoors to enjoy the lake during the offseason. Participants prepare ahead of time by getting people to sponsor them. Then, when the big day arrives they start the day off with a pancake breakfast, then they paddle their kayaks three miles across the lake. Once they reach their final destination, they get to warm up with a hot bowl of chili.
The event was a big success and no one fell out of their kayak. This year the Kayak Big Mac had 46 participants, approximately 80 spectators and brought in $1,800. Not bad for a day of kayaking on a cold and blustery day!
Next spring the Ogallala Rotary Club will be partnering up with the Goodall Recreation Center to talk to school children about water safety. They plan to give kindergarteners a copy of the book, Josh the Otter, and talk to parents about how to sign up for free swimming lessons.
Finally, I would like to remind everyone to continue to remember our veterans beyond Veterans Day. If you think about it, every day should really be Veterans Day. Is there ever a day when we should not be thankful for their service to our country?
Veterans Day is a day we set aside to intentionally honor our veterans. But, just as it means more to a parent when their child expresses thanksgiving for a gift without being coaxed to do so, so also it means more to a veteran to hear those words of gratitude for their service and sacrifice from American citizens on days other than Veterans Day. So, let’s be intentional this year about thanking veterans throughout the year and not just on those days when we are supposed to.
May we never forget that all gave some, but some gave all. Thank you veterans.