Legislative Session Progresses
By Governor Pete Ricketts
The legislative session is moving quickly. It seems like it was only a few weeks ago when I outlined the top priorities to work on with the Legislature in my State of the State address. Working together, we have made progress on a number of key issues. With only a few weeks left, however, there is still much to accomplish before session adjourns and senators return home. A significant amount of work on top priorities like tax relief, infrastructure funding, and balancing the budget is yet to come.
At the opening of session, I designated property tax relief as my number one priority. Wherever I travel, I continually hear from Nebraskans who feel the pain of our states high property taxes. Earlier this session, I testified at two hearings in support of property tax bills, which have been a collaborative effort between Senators Gloor and Sullivan and my administration. Nebraskans at those hearings confirmed the need for more property tax relief, and also provided feedback on how we could improve the bills.
Following the hearings, the senators, their committees, and I have continued to work to make adjustments to these bills. After much discussion, the Revenue and Education Committees and I have agreed upon proposed amendments to the property tax relief bills. These amendments do three major things: First, they provide additional targeted direct property tax relief for ag land property taxpayers. Second, they limit the carryover of unused restricted funds by community colleges to three percent. Third, they make changes to our states education funding formula to enhance local accountability in our school districts.
Because the amendment to LB958 contains significant changes from the original version, the Revenue Committee will hold a new hearing on the proposed amendment on March 24, 2016 at 2:00pm at the Nebraska State Capitol. Nebraskans are invited to attend the hearing to give their feedback on the new proposed amendment. If you are not able to attend and would still like to testify, you are welcome to submit your written testimony to the Revenue Committee by emailing email@example.com. Written testimony must be submitted before the hearing to be included in the official record.
In addition to property tax relief, we have been working with the Appropriations Committee on the Transportation Innovation Act (TIA), a bill that makes targeted investments to accelerate expressway construction and bridge repair. These targeted investments utilize existing sources of revenue, including a $50 million cash reserve transfer and unprogrammed motor vehicle fuel tax revenue. After advancing from committee unanimously, the TIA successfully passed the first round of debate with overwhelming support. There are two more rounds of debate on the TIA before it can reach my desk for approval.
As always, my administration is also working to hold the line on the rate of growth in spending. Recently, the Appropriations Committee advanced a budget from committee that holds the line on spending similar to the responsible rate proposed in my budget. Holding the line on the rate of growth in spending is critical to ensuring that the Legislature and I can continue to provide tax relief in the coming years.
As the session continues, my administration will continue to work with the Legislature to address these and other important priorities for hardworking Nebraskans. If you want to share your thoughts on these bills or others with your senator, you can find all of the information you need to contact your senator by visiting www.NebraskaLegislature.gov. To reach my office, you can call 402-471-2244, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on Twitter @GovRicketts and at facebook.com/GovernorPeteRicketts.