Top 10 Bills to Watch during Nebraska Unicameral

January 28, 2013

Below is the Top 10 bills that AFP-Nebraska will be Supporting and Opposing during the 2013 Legislature.  A complete list of all bills AFP will be monitoring is available by clicking here.

1.      LB 104 – Sen. Lathrop – Oppose

Sen. Lathrop’s LB 104 will spend millions of taxpayer money to fund tax incentives for green energy programs that simply do not work.  Handing over taxpayer money to fund energy companies who have a questionable track record creating jobs is a bad investment for Nebraska.

Green companies which received federal stimulus money and went bankrupt:

  • A123, received $249 million in DOE grants
  • Abound Solar, $400 million in stimulus loans
  • Beacon Power, $43 million in DOE loans
  • Ener1, $118.6 million in stimulus grants
  • Solyndra, $535 million in DOE loans

2.      LB 179 – Sen. Kintner – Support

The metro-area learning community has failed to produce results for Nebraska’s children.  The learning community is an educational bureaucracy that adds another layer to an already expensive local property tax bill without producing results.

The learning community had its chance and did not produce results for Nebraska’s students.  Only 44% of OPS students meet basic academic standards, although the learning community has been in existence since 2009.  It is time to institute real reform that puts children first instead of creating additional layers of administrative overhead.

3.      LB 266 – Sen. Chambers – Support

   Great LTE written by AFP’s Matt Litt published in Lincoln Journal Star (1/22/13)

Sen. Ernie Chambers has introduced a bill fiscal conservatives should get behind. LB266 would remove the option for localities to increase the sales tax by half a percent. Sen. Chambers’ bill would reverse the potential of a local sales tax increase, which the Legislature made possible last year.

Chambers told the Journal Star that increases in sales tax are harmful to “poor people” (“Bill takes sales tax option off table,” Jan. 17). We agree. He also said the governor’s tax plan to remove special-interest sales tax exemptions would result in cities not needing to increase the sales tax. We agree with this as well.

As fiscal conservatives, we agree that lower tax rates are best for economic growth and opportunity for low- and middle-class families.

According to the American Legislative Exchange Council, Nebraska has the 19th highest sales tax burden. Our citizens cannot afford to pay more, nor should they have to. Especially with the recent federal payroll tax increase, we need more of our money and the government deserves less of it.

4.      LB 405 – Sen. McCoy – Support

The typical Nebraska family will save $1,051 with Gov. Heineman’s plan to eliminate the state income tax.

The typical Nebraska family earns $55,616 annually

The typical Nebraska family spends $4,263 on non-taxable family health coverage

Additionally include the standard family and the remaining taxable income places the median Nebraska family in the 5.01% state income tax bracket

Eliminating the income tax burden results in median savings of

$1,051

Effort needs to be made to ensure the sales tax structure in our state is equitable, reflects our state’s priorities and does not merely shift the tax burden.

For example, the current bill keeps in place sales tax exemptions for the purchase of fine art, lottery tickets, newspapers, as well as tele-floral services.  To date, we have not heard compelling reasons why these items would retain their special sales tax exemption.  Eliminating these exemptions would garner $20,621,031 – an extra $20.6 million that would go a long way towards reducing the burden on either the Ag sector or medical services.

AFP-Nebraska also does not necessarily agree with the Governor’s desire to have revenue-neutral, budget-neutral tax reform.  While we support the Governor’s bold vision and leadership of a conversation on tax reform Nebraska desperately needs, we believe Nebraska state government spending is growing way too fast.

The Governor’s biennial budget proposes to increase spending by 4.9% over two years.  By comparison, the inflation rate is 1.7%.   AFP-Nebraska would propose slashing spending and limiting any increase in spending to population growth + inflation, which would be well under the proposed 4.9% number.  This reduction in spending growth could then be utilized for real tax relief; and further reduce the pressure on specific sales tax exemptions.

5.      LB 474 – Sen. Krist – Support

Occupation taxes across Nebraska have become a way for local government to in effect increase the local sales tax rate.  Occupation taxes have simply been lumped on top of the state and local sales tax and have been targeted to raise general fund dollars for local governments; which also is the purpose of the local option sales tax, not the occupation tax.

Sen. Krist’s LB 474 would prohibit local government from merely tacking on the occupation tax on top of the sales tax, as well as prohibits using the occupation tax as a sin tax on alcohol or tobacco.

6.       LB 482 – Sen. Kintner – Support

LB 482 prohibits either the direct or indirect adoption of the principles of the United    Nations Conference on Environment and Development, referred to as Agenda  21.

You can read the United Nations document titled “Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21” by clicking here.

The document is a treatise on the role of government to combat climate change, human over-population as well as other social, economic and environmental objectives.  The state of Nebraska and its taxpayers should not be subject to the extreme-left political and ideological agenda of an organization former National Policy Director for President George H.W. Bush Stefan Halper called corrupt and ‘shrouded in secrecy’.

7a.  LB 439 – Sen. Gloor – Oppose                                                              (Seven is broken up by 7a and 7b because they’re both dealing with irresponsible tax increases)

Most Nebraskans know what the research indicates, that our state and local tax burden is far too high.

Nebraska has the 21st highest tax burden in the country; all of our neighboring states have a lower tax burden.  We are in the Top 20 (which is not a Top 20 you want to be in) for our obscenely high property tax rates and our state income tax burden is also relatively high.

LB 439 would increase the tax burden in Nebraska by increasing the state’s tobacco tax by 112%.  Tax on a package of cigarettes would increase from 64 cents to $1.36.  112% is a huge tax increase and is unfairly targeting a certain population of our state.

7b. LB 532 – Sen. Conrad – Oppose

It is documented that individuals and businesses are fleeing ‘high-tax’ states to relocate to ‘low-tax’ states.  Nebraska must take advantage of this realty and lower out tax burden in order to create new wealth and job opportunities.  Unfortunately, Sen. Conrad is going in the opposite direction.

LB 532 would increase the state’s income tax rate; specifically for top earners.  It’s been dubbed the Nebraska version of the ‘Buffett rule’.  What Sen. Conrad fails to see is the federal government adopted the Buffett rule, we raised tax rates for the top 1% of earners during the Fiscal Cliff debate and yet the federal government is still in red ink.  Increasing taxes did not solve our deficit problem, it did not solve our debt problem, and it did not create wealth or new job opportunities.

The government already enforced the Buffett rule and the American people have nothing to show for it.  Sen. Conrad’s bill will only make Nebraska less desirable for entrepreneurs who want to either expand their business in Nebraska, or are looking to relocate.  LB 532 is an impediment to wealth and job creation; and it is the unemployed and working poor who will be hurt the most by its passage.

8.       LB 564 – Sen. Nelson – Support

President Obama’s federal health care law not only costs over $2 trillion in unfunded government spending, it violates the constitutional right to freedom of conscience.

LB 564, the ‘Health Care Freedom of Conscience Act’ guarantees individuals and institutions within the state of Nebraska the right to decline participation in health care functions which violate their respective consciences.

The federal government does not have the right to demand individuals or institutions violate their most deeply held personal beliefs; yet multiple mandates in the Affordable Care Act, known as ObamaCare, forces participation in health care programs that violate their beliefs.  Passage of the Health Care Freedom of Conscience Act is a strong protection against unconstitutional federal government overreach.

9.       LB 577 – Campbell – Oppose

Gov. Dave Heineman refused to allow Nebraska to participate in the Medicaid expansion program available under ObamaCare.  The governor has said Medicaid expansion under President Obama’s plan could cost the state as much as $766 million in new spending.

Members of the Legislature, including Sen. Campbell, have disputed the governor’s numbers and have introduced LB 577 to reverse the governor’s prohibition on Medicaid expansion.

While we believe Sen. Campbell and the bill’s co-sponsors have the best of intentions providing affordable health care coverage for Nebraskans; there is no way of knowing what the actual cost of this program will be.  Currently, the federal government is offering to pay for the full cost of expansion for a finite number of years and then eventually some costs will shift to the states.

What these senators miss is the fact the federal government has no money.  We are over $16 TRILLION in debt and ended 2012 with a $1.1 trillion deficit.

The federal government will have to right-size its budget eventually and cut spending.  Relying on the federal government as a funding partner to expand new spending programs is outright irresponsible.

10.  LB 593 – Sen. Lautenbaugh – Support

Nebraska currently does not allow for either public or privately operated charter schools.  LB 593 would allow for public charter schools to be granted their status by the state Board of Education and would run independent of the local school board.

While most public schools and education staff do an excellent job providing an effective learning environment for Nebraska’s students; there is work to be done.

LB 593 is about giving students and families the opportunity to attend the school of their choice; to participate in an education environment that is the right unique fit.  The bill is about giving every child the opportunity to succeed.

Omaha Public Schools spends over $8,800 per student per year.

(This number is taken from the 2010-2011 general fund budget of roughly $447 million divided by the 50,466 students in the system.)

Don’t think that’s a lot of money?  Consider UNL charges $7,600 per year for tuition.  That’s right; OPS students could get a college-level education for less than what OPS bills taxpayers.

This year only 73% of OPS students graduated.  And only 44% of students meet basic academic standards.

Students and families deserve better.  Teachers deserve better.  Taxpayers deserve better.

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