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At the request of Governor Ricketts, Senator Mike Gloor, Chairman of the Revenue Committee, introduced a bill to “slow down the increase in state-wide agricultural and horticultural land valuation and to slow the growth of property taxes levied by the political subdivisions.”¹ LB958 would limit the amount political subdivisions statewide may increase agricultural and horticultural land valuations to three percent per year.
The Governor was the first proponent of the bill during a Revenue Committee public hearing on February 4 that lasted more than six hours. The Governor’s plan is to reduce the budget and spending increases year-to-year by limiting local governments’ ag land valuations and levies. If the statewide aggregated increase of agricultural land values in any year exceeds three percent, the Property Tax Administrator will uniformly and proportionately reduce the value of every parcel of agricultural land to prevent the statewide aggregate increase from exceeding three percent. This adjustment would also effect the calculation of the school finance formula.
The bill received support from three of Nebraska’s largest agricultural groups, the Nebraska Farm Bureau, the Nebraska Cattlemen, and the Nebraska Pork Producers, which all testified that LB958 will help to relieve the disproportionate burden placed on farmers for support of public schools.
There was also a long list of opponents to the bill. In addition to Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler, La Vista Mayor Douglas Kindig, Nebraska Association of County Officials President Robert Post, and Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen, the Open Sky Policy Institute testified in opposition to LB958. The Institute’s recent policy brief argued that if a policy related to LB958 were in effect for this year, it would have yielded shortfalls for schools and other localities and that the largest tax benefits would go to farmers and ranchers near urban areas, not to greater rural Nebraska.
On February 10, the Health and Human Services Committee, on which I sit, heard testimony for LB1032 (McCollister), which is another biennial attempt to expand Medicaid in Nebraska. In an extended hearing, the proponents alone took four hours to testify.
Though I applaud the efforts of my fellow legislators to extend affordable health care coverage to those who are unable to obtain it on their own, Medicaid expansion is an unsustainable way to try to accomplish this feat. Among the states that have expanded Medicaid, there were 17 that made their expansion enrollment projections available to the public. Every one exceeded their annual projections in 2014 and in 2015 they all exceeded their total maximum projections. This means that more people enrolled for Medicaid by 2015 than were projected to enroll in the entire course of expansions.² This is simply unsustainable.
LB1032 is essentially the same type of Medicaid Expansion that has already failed in Arkansas, where private insurance costs more per patient than regular Medicaid expansion.³ As we have seen, Medicaid has not made health insurance more available or more affordable. In fact, the opposite effects have occurred. I doubt anyone disagrees with the idea that all Nebraskans should have access to affordable, quality health care services. However, it has been demonstrated time and time again that expanding Medicaid in any form creates higher costs and increased burdens on taxpayers as a whole.
Instead, I hope the members of our Legislature will seriously consider LB817 (Riepe), which creates the opportunity for individuals, families, and corporations to defray the exorbitant costs of health insurance premiums by essentially becoming monthly members of their primary care doctors offices. Dr. Clint Flanagan, a native of Fremont and a supporter of LB817, has been providing Direct Primary Care (DPC) in Colorado with great results. For a low monthly rate, his patients have virtually unlimited access to his services and can see him as many times as they need. Dr. Flanagan noted that his DPC patients have access to his cell phone number and email address and can contact him any time with questions.
Another benefit of DPC is that Dr. Flanagan, as well as other DPC providers in Colorado, work directly with specialty health care providers to significantly reduce costs for specialty visits. While the DPC model would not provide a patient an exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a Direct Primary Care patient would essentially only need to supplement his or her health care with cheaper catastrophic insurance that would also provide coverage for expensive procedures and operations.
The main draw for DPC is that it allows the patient to be more proactive in his or her health, and through this model, it reduces the reliance upon increasingly unaffordable and ineffective health insurance.
As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Joe and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address your concerns, thoughts, and needs. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.
¹ See LB958 Statement of Intent, available at http://nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/Current/PDF/SI/LB958.pdf
(last accessed February 9, 2016).
² See Vokal, Jim, Legislative Testimony: LB1032, Arkansas-Style Medicaid Expansion, (2/10/2016) (available at http://www.platteinstitute.org/blog/detail/legislative-testimony-lb-1032-arkansas-style-medicaid-expansion)
(last accessed 2/11/2016).