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The State Legislature is now in its final days of the 2019 legislative session. Only 12 days remain. State Senators have passed two budget bills on to Final Reading with the final round of debate coming up on May 21.
The main budget bill is LB 294. This bill increases State spending overall by 3.2 percent. I am not happy that we have advanced such a poor budget bill. Debate on the budget has been handled very poorly this year. Senators have proposed several amendments to LB 294, but they have never been given the opportunity to talk about them on the floor. Those who have concerns about the budget have been effectively shut down. So, I can honestly say that a full and fair debate has never taken place on the budget despite the fact that LB 294 has advanced.
Many Senators believe the State spends too much money and should cut the budget. But, the opportunity to share where these cuts could be made was obstructed by those in control and who insist on increasing State spending. Therefore, you should expect your taxes to remain high while the State continues to squander your tax dollars on programs that don’t work.
The State does not operate by the same rules private citizens do. When you do your budgeting you manage your finances based on how much money you have. That’s not how the State functions. I did not vote for this budget and I will not vote for LB 294 when it comes up on Final Reading. As your representative in the State Legislature, I know that you sent me to Lincoln to lower your taxes and to cut spending. So, that is what I intend to do with my one vote.
On May 15 we debated another very poorly designed bill. LB 720 is a bill to adopt the ImagiNE Nebraska Act. However, it should be more appropriately named: “The Just Imagine How High Your Taxes Can Go Act”! Therefore, I put a bracket motion on the bill to kill it which remains pending in the Legislature should it ever come back to the floor for another round of debate.
Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward introduced this bill on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce. LB720 replaces the Nebraska Advantage Act which is set to sunset in 2020. The bill is a tax and spend bill which offers tax incentives to entice new businesses to move to our state; thus, creating new jobs.
The Nebraska Advantage Act did not work and neither will the ImagiNE Nebraska Act. So, let’s review some history to see what this kind of economic philosophy actually leads to. In 1987 the Legislature passed LB775, which appropriated $300 million towards these kinds of tax incentives for businesses.
Then, in 2005 the Legislature passed the Nebraska Advantage Act. The primary purpose of the Act was to keep ConAgra’s headquarters in Omaha. But, as we all know, that did not work. ConAgra moved to Chicago.
The last audit of the Nebraska Advantage Act showed that it cost the State anywhere from $7,800 to $208,000 in tax incentives per job created by the Act. The amount of earned income tax credits available in the Nebraska Advantage Act is currently $490 million. LB720, would add an additional $200 million to these tax incentives for a grand total of $990 million.
As a Legislator I have to concern myself with the State’s fiscal responsibilities. Wouldn’t the $1 billion be better spent on property tax relief? I think so. Unfortunately, the final days of house cleaning in the State Legislature will likely end with big money going to the Chamber of Commerce while the citizens get hung out to dry…again.
Thank you for the honor of taking up your concerns and representing you in the Nebraska Legislature. I will continue the fight for fiscal responsibility.