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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 my consumption tax resolution was debated on the floor of the Legislature. LR11CA is my priority resolution for a constitutional amendment to repeal the income tax, property tax, sales tax and inheritance tax and to replace these taxes with a consumption tax. Today I regret to inform you that the resolution failed to advance, but don’t lose heart.
When I consider all that this constitutional amendment attempted to do, I am not so surprised that it failed. Change is hard. Change is especially hard in government, where people and politicians are used to doing things in a particular way. LR11CA sought to enact sweeping changes in the way we collect tax revenues in the state, and would have directed the Legislature to completely overhaul the tax code. To draw an analogy, this could be compared to an individual worker changing careers in midlife. These kinds of changes come with great fear of unknown repercussions.
In spite of these great fears, 23 state senators voted in favor of my resolution. In order for a constitutional resolution of this kind to succeed it requires 30 votes or 3/5 of the Senators in the State Legislature, according to Article XVI, Section 1 of the Nebraska State Constitution. Regardless of this shortfall in the vote, I believe we have made great strides forwards towards changing Nebraska’s tax policies.
Last Thursday the nationally acclaimed economist, Art Laffer, flew into Lincoln in order to visit with Gov. Ricketts and State Senators regarding Nebraska tax problems. According the Art Laffer, Nebraska has one of the absolute worst tax codes in the nation, and only West Virginia has seen less revenue and population growth than Nebraska.
Nebraska is in very bad shape. Art Laffer shared with the Senators a special map of the United States he created, which shows how Nebraska is losing revenue to nearly every state in the Union. The only states Nebraska is not losing revenue to are Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, North Dakota, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. That’s it! What his map tells us is that our tax code is preventing us from competing with other states, and unless we drastically reform our tax code, Nebraska will continue to race to the bottom.
So, the good news that I can report to you today is that Nebraska’s State Senators are finally beginning to understand our tax problems and how to fix them. It is utterly futile for us to try to fix our broken down tax code. Instead of fixing a system which cannot work, we need a brand new tax system which does work. According to Laffer, we need a brand new tax code which does the least amount of damage to the smallest number of taxpayers. In other words, we need a tax code with a low tax rate and a broad tax base, and that is exactly what the consumption tax is designed to do for Nebraska.
Art Laffer came to Nebraska to praise the consumption tax. According to Laffer, LR11CA would have set Nebraska on an excellent course for future prosperity. Therefore, I will continue to support the concept of a consumption tax and I will explore even more ways to make it happen in Nebraska. Support for the consumption tax idea is rapidly growing in Nebraska because it is the right solution for our tax problems. Because the consumption tax idea is catching fire all across our state, I will continue to fan those flames until it has the opportunity to enflame every heart, every soul, and every mind.
The nationally acclaimed economist, Art Laffer, will be dining with Nebraska State Senators Thursday evening, May 6 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at the Hruska Law Center to discuss the economics of the consumption tax for Nebraska.
The rights guaranteed to us by the United States Constitution and the Nebraska State Constitution are currently under assault. A very factious and contentious spirit has arisen in our country and in our culture today which seeks to undermine our most basic rights as children of God and as American citizens. This attempt to undermine our constitutional rights emanates from both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government in Washington, D.C., and so it demands a response from our state.
Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte has decided to rise up to this challenge by crafting and introducing a response in the form of a legislative resolution. LR 107 was written to protect Nebraskans against government overreach at the federal level. Sen. Groene’s resolution has already been co-signed by at least 31 Senators in the Nebraska State Legislature, so today I would like to tell you about what that resolution says.
LR 107 confronts the Biden Administration’s expressed intention to restrict our Second Amendment right to keep and to bear arms in unconstitutional ways. The Nebraska State Constitution clarifies that the right to keep and bear arms includes purposes such as self-defense and recreational use. Article 1, Section 1 of the Nebraska State Constitution says, “…the right to keep and bear arms for security or defense of self, family, home, and others, and for lawful common defense, hunting, recreational use, and all other lawful purposes, and such rights shall not be denied or infringed by the state or any subdivision thereof.” So, the argument that guns are only to be used for hunting fails at the constitutional level.
LR 107 also confronts the Biden Administration’s actions which seek to punish traditional religious beliefs about the sanctity of life and sexuality. The resolution reminds lawmakers that these rights are guaranteed to all Americans in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Nebraska State Constitution further clarifies in Article 1, Section 4 that “All persons have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences.” This means that whatever a person believes about abortion and sexuality is no business of any governmental entity.
LR107 also expresses distress over proposed federal legislation which is designed to usurp the process of conducting elections, which the U.S. Constitution explicitly left to the discretion of the individual state legislatures in Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution. Proposed legislation in Washington, D.C. seeks to eviscerate protections such as voter identification, periodic updating of voter files, and restrictions against ballot harvesting. In addition, proposed federal legislation also seeks to take the right and privilege of redistricting away from state legislatures.
LR 107 also protests the goal of the executive branch of the federal government to restrict the private use of at least 30 percent of America’s lands and waterways by 2030. To the contrary, the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution affirms that “No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The appropriating of 30 percent of America’s lands and waterways constitutes a gross violation of the Fifth Amendment as well as our most basic American principle of owning private property.
LR 107 also objects to the notion of vaccine passports being imposed on all American citizens. Federal mandates which restrain a person’s right to peaceably assemble, to travel about, or to engage in commerce violate a person’s individual right to liberty, especially in regards to making decisions about one’s own health and the health of one’s own family. The federal government has no right to tell you or anyone else in your family what you must inject into your own body.
Last Thursday Sen. Meghan Hunt of Omaha tried to kill LR 107 by making a motion to recommit the resolution to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, where she knew it would die in committee. Fortunately, the motion failed by a vote of 14-25-1. I look forward to advancing this resolution all the way to the Governor’s desk. I co-signed this resolution in order to help preserve our most basic and fundamental rights and to protect the integrity of the U.S. Constitution and the Nebraska State Constitution.
LR 14 is Sen. Steve Halloran’s resolution calling for a convention of the states. Article V of the U.S. Constitution allows for states to call for a constitutional convention whenever two-thirds of the state Legislatures file applications with Congress calling for a constitutional convention. LR 14 would serve as Nebraska’s application for a convention of the states. Currently 15 states have filed their applications with Congress, while 23 other states, including Nebraska, have legislation pending this year.
Since I came into the State Legislature five years ago I have received more emails in support of an Article V convention of the states from constituents living in the Panhandle of Nebraska than on any other issue. Hardly a day has passed when I have not heard from someone living in Legislative District 47 in support of this issue. I have received more than 1,000 emails in support of a convention of the states over the years. No other bill or resolution even comes close. Conversely, the few emails I have received in opposition to an Article V convention of the states tend to come from activists living in other states, who send me prefabricated messages warning me about a runaway convention.
A runaway convention is not possible. The language of LR 14 specifically limits the kind of amendments which could be introduced at an Article V convention of the states. Only three topics could be addressed. The three issues which would come up for debate are fiscal restraints on the federal government, limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limiting the terms of office for members of Congress. That’s it.
The federal government desperately needs to be fiscally restrained. The U.S. national debt as of last Friday stood at $28.2 trillion while the U.S. Gross Domestic Product stood at only $21.6 trillion. That’s a difference of $6.6 trillion! In order to pay this debt down, each contributing U.S. taxpayer would have to give the federal government $224,748 this year. This means that the United States of America is already effectively bankrupt.
When it comes to limiting the powers of the federal government, one needs to look no further than the events of last week. Last week we heard about how Congress wants to expand the U.S. Supreme Court to 13 justices, how Congress wants to end the filibuster in the U.S. Senate, and how Dr. Anthony Fauci believes the day may be coming someday when we can all stop wearing masks. The federal government has become too large and too intrusive.
Finally, limiting the number of terms that members of Congress could serve would help prevent the kind of corruption we so often see in Washington, D.C. By the time a member of Congress has become a career politician, he or she has made the transition from serving the people to doing the government’s bidding. Limiting terms of office would prevent anyone from ever becoming a corrupt career politician in Washington, D.C.
For these reasons I support an Article V convention of the states. This is the third time that Sen. Halloran has introduced this legislation. Each time Sen. Halloran has introduced one of these resolutions, I have co-signed it, supported it, and stood with him at his press conferences. I will continue to support legislation for a convention of the states for as long as I continue to serve in the Nebraska State Legislature.
My priority bill for this year has made its way out of committee and onto General File. LR 11CA is my resolution for a constitutional amendment to repeal the State income tax, the property tax, the State sales tax and the inheritance tax and to replace these taxes with a consumption tax. Last week Speaker Hilgers announced that he would begin floor debates on taxation bills beginning the week of April 26. LR 11CA will likely be put on the agenda sometime that week.
We have been making great progress in advancing the EPIC Consumption Tax. For instance, last week the Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska (ICON) endorsed the EPIC Consumption Tax, sending out an email to all of their members encouraging them to visit the website at www.EPICconsumptiontax.org and to make private donations to our organization known as the Consumption Tax Institute. I am very excited to have ICON on board and I look forward to other agricultural organizations joining our effort.
Although times continue to be rough for farmers and ranchers, these are very exciting times in which we live. We are on the cusp of completely transforming the way we collect taxes in our state and we are about to move Nebraska to the front of the line among the most tax friendly states in America. Once enacted, I believe the EPIC Consumption tax will promote economic growth and prosperity never seen before in the history of our state. When other states see how the EPIC Consumption Tax has transformed Nebraska’s economy, I believe they will want to follow our lead by introducing similar legislation in their own states.
As I said above, times continue to be rough for farmers and ranchers in Nebraska. Nevertheless, let us be thankful for the precipitation we have already received this year and let us pray that it comes again during the hot summer months when we will need it most, but know that there is real hope for the future of farming and ranching to prosper again in Nebraska.
I’m thankful that we live in that part of the country which sees variations in the seasons. I believe the best season of all is spring. Why spring? By the time spring arrives we are tired of the cold, the wind and the inconveniences winter brings. Spring is a time for new beginnings.
Spring is the season agricultural folks most look forward to. Livestock producers are caring for their new arrivals and planting season is just around the corner. However, with the enthusiasm and anticipation of a new year, we often become distracted and find ourselves in dangerous situations. As you head out to plant or care for your livestock please be careful. Agriculture is one of the most dangerous jobs In America. We are counting on you to provide what we eat and what we wear.
Thank you to all who provide support services to Nebraska’s greatest industry: Agriculture!
Imagine taking your car to an auto mechanic for repairs and receiving an estimate for parts and labor totaling $100, but when you return to pick up your car the mechanic hands you a bill for $200! Good automotive mechanics know better than to deviate from an estimate without first getting permission from the owner of the car. Getting permission is just the morally right thing to do. In some states, such as Illinois, mechanics are even required by law to get permission whenever the repairs exceed more than 10 percent of the original estimate. Well, what about the government? Shouldn’t the government get permission before they raise your taxes?
Sen. Ben Hansen of Blair, Nebraska introduced a bill this year which requires local units of government to do just that. LB 644, which is known as the Property Tax Request Act, requires that a postcard be mailed to all of the landowners of a political subdivision whenever that political subdivision intends to raise taxes higher than they were the previous year. I call that: Transparency.
In addition, the Property Tax Request Act requires political subdivisions to hold public hearings in order to justify raising property taxes. Just like an auto mechanic who works on your car, shouldn’t a hike in your property taxes be justified? Well, the Property Tax Request Act alleviates that problem to a degree by holding those with tax asking authority accountable to the taxpayers.
The Property Tax Request Act even goes one step further. The Act requires political subdivisions to pass a resolution or an ordinance in order to raise property taxes higher than the previous year’s taxes. This is important because it forces elected officials to go on record for raising your taxes. Taxpayers need to know precisely who it is who is responsible for raising their property taxes. By requiring a resolution or an ordinance, the mystery of who has been raising your property taxes will finally be made known.
Legislation which promotes more transparency in government is always a good thing. When is transparency ever a bad thing in government? Taxpayers have a right to hold their elected officials accountable, and the Property Tax Request Act facilitates that process.
The Property Tax Request Act shifts the balance of power slightly back in favor of the taxpayer, and government officials generally do not like that. For this reason organizations which promote property tax relief, smaller government, and greater transparency in government, such as the Platte Institute and Americans for Prosperity, testified in favor of this bill at the public hearing. Conversely, the lobbyists who typically fight against property tax relief, smaller government, and greater transparency in government testified against this bill at the public hearing.
The bottom line is that the Property Tax Request Act is a good bill. So, when it came up on the floor for debate last week, I supported it, and I am delighted to report that this bill has advanced to Select File. Sen. Hansen is working to make this bill even better by amending it. His amendment will answer some of the objections that were raised against the bill during the floor debate. It is always good to make a good bill even better.
Last week my priority bill for this year was voted out of committee. The Revenue Committee voted 6-2 to advance LR11CA to General File. LR11CA is my resolution for a constitutional amendment to repeal the State income tax, the State sales tax, the property tax, and the inheritance tax, and to replace all of these taxes with a consumption tax.
The consumption tax would tax all services and new goods. Used goods would never be taxed. The consumption tax only taxes an item once, then it is yours to keep.
In January of this year the Beacon Hill Institute ran the numbers for me and determined that we would be able to implement the consumption tax at a rate of 9.8 percent. These numbers are currently being confirmed by the economist, Steven Moore of FreedomWorks and Art Laffer of Laffer & Assoc. However, by using the smartcard method I believe we could implement the consumption tax at an even lower rate. Let me explain.
Under the consumption tax every legal resident living in Nebraska would receive a monthly allowance. The monthly allowance pays the full consumption tax for citizens according to their filing status up to the federal poverty level. The purpose of the monthly allowance is to offset consumption taxes paid on necessities.
The original consumption tax model that I proposed resulted in the State having to raise a total of $11 billion. We need $9.5 billion to run the State, and we would need an additional $1.5 billion to fund the monthly allowance, for a grand total of $11 billion.
The original model that I proposed also required the State to deposit the monthly allowance directly into the bank accounts of every qualifying person or family. For example, every family of four would get $213 deposited directly into their family’s bank account each month in order to cover their consumption taxes up to the poverty level.
One idea that I’ve been exploring is the smartcard method of paying taxes. A smartcard is a plastic card with a built-in microprocessor used for financial transactions. The smart card method would replace depositing cash into individual bank accounts. Under the smartcard method the Department of Revenue would credit the monthly allowance virtually onto a smartcard. The smartcard would then be used at the cash register to pay for the consumption tax. If someone purchased $20.00 in consumable goods, their out-of-pocket expense would be only $20.00. The $1.96 in consumption taxes would be deducted from the balance on the smartcard, and this process would continue with future purchases until the monthly balance runs out.
The advantage of using the smartcard method is that it would eliminate the need for the State to collect an additional $1.5 billion in additional revenues to pay for the consumption tax. Because the monthly allowance would be distributed virtually on the smartcard, there would be no need to collect an additional $1.5 billion in tax revenues.
If the State could avoid collecting and redistributing $1.5 billion in revenues to pay for the monthly allowances, the consumption tax rate would be substantially lower than 9.8 percent. Because the State would only have to generate $9.5 billion in revenues, the new rate for the consumption tax would be estimated to be as low as 8.45 percent!
Once you factor the monthly allowance into the equation, you get what I like to call the effective consumption tax rate. Factoring in the monthly allowance leads to a much lower effective rate. For a family of four who spends $65,000 on services and new goods, their effective consumption tax rate would five percent. Imagine paying five percent on services and new goods, but never having to any other taxes!
The most important principle of communism is the abolition of private property. When Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto back in 1847 they declared the first principle of communism to be the “abolition of land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.” Today we are seeing this principle being implemented in a very large way.
On January 27, 2021 President Joe Biden issued Executive Order 14008, which is known as the Tackling the Climate Change Crisis at Home and Abroad order. Section 216 of this Executive Order directs the Secretary of the Interior to develop a program conserving at least 30 percent of all lands and waterways in the United States by the year 2030. Hence, this program is known today as the 30 X 30 program.
The President of the United States intends to raise your property taxes. The 30 X 30 program intends to preserve 680 million acres of land in the United States in its natural state; thus, preventing anyone from ever using these lands and their resources. Converting land from private ownership to federal lands entails taking these lands off of the property tax rolls. This would automatically result in a higher property tax burden for those already owning private lands.
Making these kinds of enormous land grabs will have devastating consequences for our economy in Nebraska. Many industries operating within our state’s borders depend upon our state’s natural resources, and these resources are now being put in jeopardy. These land grabs will surely affect our ability to raise crops, graze livestock, drill for oil, mine for minerals, and pump water from the Aquifer. In fact, it will even affect our ability to enjoy outdoor recreational activities, such as boating, fishing and hunting.
By passing this Executive Order President Joe Biden has revealed his bias against private ownership of land. Designating lands as federal preserves does not guarantee their preservation. Federal lands are often more susceptible to wildfires, insect infestations, and even disease. God gave us this land to manage, and private owners usually do a much better job of managing the land than does the federal government.
The President lacks constitutional and statutory authority to implement the 30 X 30 program. Executive Order 14008 never references the United States Constitution or any other federal statute which grants this kind of power to the executive branch of the federal government. Instead, these are matters which would be better left to Congress and the states, rather than by a Presidential Executive Order. By issuing an Executive Order, no debate on this issue has ever taken place.
The time for us to act is now. Morrill County recently adopted a resolution opposing Executive Order 14008, which includes a statement opposing the designation of county lands as “wilderness, wilderness study areas, wildlife preserves, and open space,” a statement supporting Nebraska’s water rights system, and a statement directing the 30 X 30 program to only take lands from willing landowners coupled with just compensation for the land at fair market value. I would like to encourage other counties in Nebraska to write similar resolutions.
President Joe Biden’s Executive Order undermines one of the most foundational principles of our American republic, namely the principle of private property. For this reason, our Founding Fathers wisely stated in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution that no citizen shall ever “be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”
Sometimes life in the State Legislatures is like searching for gold only to die without anything to show for your efforts. Last week a bill came up in the Legislature that several State Senator believe is a bad bill. The bill was LB88, a bill designed to protect student journalists. Believing that we could muster enough votes to kill the bill, we set out to filibuster the bill. Filibustering a bill on General File requires the opponents of the bill to talk for eight hours, and that is exactly what we did. We talked for eight long hours only to lose by one vote at the end of the debate. LB88 advanced to Select File.
So, why would so many Senators waste eight long hours of their lives trying to kill a bill only to lose the vote in the end? This does not happen unless those opposing the bill care passionately about defeating the bill. There are many reasons why this bill stirs the passions of conservative Senators like me, so today I would like to explain what some of those reasons are.
First, LB88 allows student journalists to make decisions about the “advertising content” of the school newspaper. This means that student journalists would have the freedom to allow anyone to advertise in the school newspaper. Many parents, for example, would object to allowing Planned Parenthood to advertise in the local high school newspaper, but under LB88 nobody would be able to stop them. While we are at it, how would you feel if the KKK ran an ad in your student’s high school newspaper? For this reason, school teachers and administrators need to have some control over what gets printed.
Second, LB88 confuses freedom of speech with freedom of the press. The bill states explicitly that “a student journalist has the right to exercise freedom of speech and freedom of the press in school-sponsored media.” When it comes to publishing a newspaper, freedom of the press applies, but not freedom of speech. The reason is that school newspapers are not public forums. Freedom of speech would only apply if the student newspaper was declared to be a public forum. Well, that’s exactly what LB88 attempts to do.
LB88 changes school newspapers to public forums. The bill states explicitly that, “All school-sponsored media are deemed to be public forums.” By making this most important fundamental change, the door to free speech is flung wide open. This makes the high school newspaper no different than Facebook or Twitter, where students can say anything they want.
High school students are just that – they are students, not journalists. In order to become a morally responsible journalist, they must be taught, and that process usually begins in high school. LB88 would effectively turn the tables on educators, making it impossible for them to teach what good journalism looks like.
Finally, LB88 would put an end to many high school newspapers. Here’s why: Minors cannot be sued, but school districts and educators can be sued. Once we allow high school students to write like they do on Facebook and Twitter, schools will be sued. Consequently, LB88 presents a whole new set of liability threats to school boards. No school board in their right mind would allow a high school newspaper to go to print with this kind of a liability threat looming over them. For this reason, I believe LB88 would necessarily lead to the death of the high school newspaper. Because I care passionately about keeping high school newspapers active and alive, I participated in the filibuster and voted against LB88.
By now many of you have heard about the new sex education standards being proposed to the Nebraska Department of Education. These new standards would teach children as young as five years-old about gender identity and same gender families.
These new standards are not the result of any piece of legislation in the Unicameral. Instead, the 60 page draft of proposed changes to the State’s health education curriculum came from a team of so called “education experts,” otherwise known as LGBTQ activists.
This team of education experts never bothered to survey the general public or to measure the pulse of Nebraska before imposing these kinds of progressive standards on our educational system. Had they done so, and actually cared about the results, they never would have drafted such a controversial proposal.
The nature of the sex education portion of these new health education standards is divisive at best. To be sure, divisiveness is exactly what these education experts were aiming for. To the contrary, the primary goal of a committee or team of this kind should have been to find common ground. Instead, their proposal imposes a radical left-wing agenda upon a very large traditionalist segment of our society, who reject the ideas contained in the proposal.
Just to be clear, I oppose the human growth and development section of these new health education standards. These are standards which encourage children to question their own sexual orientation and which promote several categories of gender identities as a matter of self-expression as opposed to teaching children to accept their own God-given biological sex.
The primary duty for educating children resides with parents, not the State. Although the State of Nebraska has a constitutional obligation to “provide for the free instruction in the common schools,” that obligation does not usurp the fundamental right of parents to raise their children as they see fit.
The proper role of public education is to assist parents in the task of educating their children. When educators view their role this way, they no longer seek to override the desires and convictions of parents with their own ulterior agenda. Unfortunately, far too many educators view themselves as experts charged with the primary task of educating children regardless of the beliefs, desires and convictions of parents.
The State of Nebraska has no moral obligation to teach sexuality to children, and teaching sexuality to children may very well be out of bounds. We must never forget that it is a fundamental characteristic of communist countries to take children from their parents at an early age and indoctrinate them with propaganda which runs contrary to the convictions of their parents. This kind of educational Statism has no place in a free country.
Because parents bear the primary responsibility for educating their children and because parents in general remain divided on these kinds of sexuality issues, common sense would suggest that we should either leave the human growth and development section of the curriculum unchanged or just abolish it altogether.