107TH LEGISLATURE, 1ST SESSION – DAY 70
MEDAL OF HONOR HIGHWAY CELEBRATION MAY 22
Last year Beverly Neel and I had the privilege of joining other residents of District 17 to celebrate the completion of the newly named Nebraska Medal of Honor Highway (U.S.20). This May 11th, Ken Hanel and Daryl Harrison will join others to walk across the Nebraska Medal of Honor Highway in an event called, Walk the Walk. There will also be a motorcycle convoy participating in the festivities. You are invited to join the motorcycles, Walk the Walk with Ken and Daryl, or you may wish to simply attend the christening of the highway on May 22 at 5:30 pm in Siouxland Freedom Park. It will be a patriotic day to remember. Medal of Honor Recipient James C. McCloughan of Michigan will sing the National Anthem. Governor Ricketts has been invited to introduce James McCloughan and Charles Hagemeister, one of only two living Nebraska Medal of Honor Recipients. Both Medal of Honor Recipients will be speaking and then will christen the Nebraska Medal of Honor Highway. For more information contact Nebraska Medal of Honor Foundation, President Daryl Harrison at (402)922-1329 Pheasant55@harrisonwoc.com.
LEARN WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE A SENATOR
The Unicameral Youth Legislature is a four-day legislative simulation in which high school students take on the role of lawmakers. Student senators sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral. Taking place on June 13-16 for grades 9-12 for the 2021-2022 school year, the Unicameral Youth Legislature will give behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators, staff and lobbyists. Bill topics are based on legislation considered during the most recent legislative session. From driving laws to the death penalty, topics selected for the legislature are diverse and engaging. Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission. Applicants must submit a short essay. Other $100 scholarships are also available. Contact the Unicameral Information Office for more information at (402) 471-2788 or email@example.com.
PENDER RECEIVES RURAL WORKFORCE HOUSING FUNDS
Created by the Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Ricketts in 2017, the RWHF is designed to help communities increase their supply of quality, affordable housing to accommodate a growing workforce. “Our state’s affordability makes Nebraska a great place to raise a family,” said Gov. Ricketts. “The Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act provides matching funds for our communities working to build high-quality, reasonably priced homes. The availability of affordable housing grows Nebraska by helping small towns and rural communities attract new businesses and residents.” RWHF grants are available to eligible non-profit development organizations, who—often in collaboration with local employers and financial institutions—supply a minimum of 1:1 matching dollars to generate Rural Workforce Housing Investment Funds for project financing. Among the recipients was Pender Community Development, Inc. with a local match of $600,000 and a RWHF Award of $600,000.
GOVERNOR SIGNS BUDGET INTO LAW
On Monday Governor Pete Ricketts signed the State of Nebraska’s next two-year budget into law. The budget controls state spending and delivers significant property tax relief among other key priorities. “The budget I have signed controls state spending and significantly increases direct property tax relief for the people of Nebraska,” said Gov. Ricketts. “As the Legislature continues their work, there are additional opportunities to deliver significant tax relief. I look forward to working with Senators to deliver even more relief for the people of Nebraska.”
1. Controls State Spending: The budget signed into law by the Governor limits the State’s annual budget growth to 1.7 percent. This is about one-fourth of the yearly budget growth before Gov. Ricketts took office.
2. Property Tax Relief: The budget delivers about $1.45 billion in property tax relief over the biennium. This includes $613 million in direct property tax relief through the State’s Property Tax Credit Relief Fund, and over $627 million from the newly enacted LB 1107 refundable property tax credit. The budget also includes $214 million to provide for property tax payments under the current homestead exemption program.
3. K-12 School Funding: The budget fully funds the state school aid formula, providing over $1 billion annually in aid to K-12 public schools.
4. Educational Opportunities: The budget expands the Career Scholarships program to include private institutions and also includes additional resources for the state’s
textbook loan program for K-12 private schools.
5. Public Safety: The budget kicks off the process of replacing the decaying Nebraska State Penitentiary with a new, modern correctional facility. This investment will also increase the operational capacity of Nebraska’s corrections system to meet forecasted needs.
SALES AND USE TAX EXEMPTIONS ADVANCE
My bill, LB595, which provides a sales and use tax exemption for inputs used in the process of manufacturing ethanol, was the lead bill from a Revenue Committee amendment which included several other bills, including: Under LB672, agricultural machinery and equipment would be defined as tangible personal property used directly in cultivating or harvesting a crop, raising or caring for animal life, protecting the health and welfare of animal life or collecting or processing an agricultural product on a farm or ranch. LB182, would exempt from state sales and use tax the gross income received from the lease or use of towers or other structures primarily used in conjunction with the furnishing of internet access service. Under LB350, the proceeds of sales and use taxes imposed on the sale or lease of motorboats, personal watercraft, all-terrain vehicles and utility type vehicles would be credited to the state Game and Parks Commission Capital Maintenance Fund until 2027 rather than 2022. Finally, LB502 would allow taxpayers who have signed agreements to receive tax incentives under the Nebraska Advantage Act to receive sales and use tax incentives using the process created under the ImagiNE Nebraska Act.
TAX BENEFITS IMPACTING DISTRICT 17
I supported LB682 coming out of the Revenue Committee and I wanted to explain how the New Markets Tax Credit Program has benefited District 17. Blue Ox Manufacturing is the largest employer in Pender, a rural town in my district with a population of 1,200. A few years ago, Blue Ox secured a $10.4 Million investment from the New Markets program that helped them create 20 new jobs in Pender, and keep their existing 160 jobs in Pender, where they have been for over 90 years. Keeping Blue Ox in Pender and helping them grow their business has been critical to the success of this small town in my district, and that was made possible by the New Markets investment. Blue Ox is one of several examples of New Markets investment in District 17. Since the New Markets Tax Credit program began in Nebraska, 40% of all investment through the program has been made in rural Nebraska through projects like the Blue Ox project in Pender. It is truly a program that benefits both urban and rural Nebraska.
CORPORATE TAX CUT AND OTHER REVENUE MEASURES ADVANCE
After two days of discussion, lawmakers gave first-round approval to a bill that includes several tax-related proposals, including a cut to Nebraska’s top corporate income tax rate. One amendment would cut the state’s top corporate income tax rate to 6.84 percent — the same as the state’s top individual income tax rate — beginning Jan. 1, 2022. Corporations currently pay a state income tax rate of 5.58 percent on the first $100,000 of taxable income and 7.81 percent on income in excess of that amount. A second component of the divided committee amendment contained provisions of LB299, any rural or suburban fire protection district, airport authority, city, village or nonprofit corporation could provide and maintain enhanced cancer benefits for paid and volunteer firefighters, the combined total of which would not exceed $50,000 in the firefighter’s lifetime. Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, an individual’s federal adjusted gross income would be reduced by the amount received by or on behalf of a firefighter for cancer benefits under the act. This would ensure that the benefits are not subject to state income tax.
A third amendment, included my bill, LB597, designed to provide parents who have suffered a stillbirth of 20 weeks or more, a refundable tax credit of $2000. Parents of stillborn babies often incur higher medical expenses than a healthy delivery, as well as burial expenses. This credit will help alleviate the financial burden of their loss. A final amendment included the amended provisions of LB347, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Brett Lindstrom, which deal with a category of income earned by U.S. multinational corporations. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act created a provision to tax Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income, a certain type of income earned by foreign subsidiaries of U.S. corporations. The tax is meant to discourage multinational corporations from shifting profits to jurisdictions with tax rates lower than the 21 percent U.S. corporate rate.
PHASE OUT EXEMPTION ON SOCIAL SECURITY TAX ADVANCES
LB64 would set the exemption on such income, to the extent that it is included in federal adjusted gross income, starting the exemption at 5 percent of AGI for tax year 2022, increasing to 20 percent in 2023 and rising 10 percent per year until reaching 100 percent in 2030. For individuals, the exemption would start at 20 percent for those with an AGI of less than $60,000 in tax year 2022. The proposal would cap eligibility for married couples filing jointly at an AGI of $95,000 and for individuals at $80,000.
NEBRASKA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION HEALTH STANDARDS
Recently the Nebraska Department of Education released a draft of the Nebraska Health Education Standards. I strongly encourage you to read the standards and inform yourself about new content that is being considered. Take some time to review the entire document for yourself and let the State Department of Education know what you think.
A draft Health Education Standards are available for review at: https://www.education.ne.gov/healthed/health-education-standards-development/ You can contribute your feedback at: https://nde.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8dI1y2pRSfXlG8R Or members of the public can submit a formal comment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
DISTRICT 17 COVID-19
The number of positive tests reported for the periods April 15, 2021 to April 23, 2021 in District 17 are as follow:
Dakota County +18 (4090)
Thurston County: +0 (1161)
Wayne County: +7 (1147)
As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me at 402-471-2716 or email@example.com.