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Briese prepares for 2021 legislative session

 

December 31, 2020



The legislative session will begin Wednesday, Jan 6. On that day, newly-elected members will be sworn in and the speaker, chair and vice chair of the Executive Committee and committee chairs will be elected.

What happens after that may depend on the status of the pandemic. Under normal circumstances, we would then introduce bills for 10 days, do some preliminary work including adoption of rules and committee assignments, with committee hearings beginning around the second week

But this year, it’s unclear what impact the pandemic will have on our path forward. Our actions will require a balancing of interests, including that of public safety, the need to set an example for fellow Nebraskans and the need to do the work we were sent to Lincoln for.

Regardless of how it occurs, as we move forward, many issues await us.

As a member of the Revenue Committee, I’m certain we will hear various proposals for tax reform and tax relief. I will be introducing some tax reform/tax relief measures myself, which I will discuss in future columns.

One should remember that we passed LB 1107 last year, which created a new refundable income tax credit based on school property taxes paid and established a statutory minimum of $275 million per year in the property tax credit fund. Revenue projections suggest the initial $125 million per year in income tax credits created by LB1107 could grow to over $200 million in the second year, and may reach over $300 million soon after that.

The magnitude of that estimated escalation of the credits may make additional property tax relief more difficult, as some urban senators will think we have done enough on the issue for now. However, rest assured I will continue to work for additional property tax relief and reform.

Nebraska voters, in November, overwhelmingly adopted a proposal to establish casinos at racetracks, with 70% of the tax revenue ending up in the property tax credit fund. This 70% is conservatively projected to yield $50 million per year for the property tax credit fund. And as per the language of my LB 963 from last year, which was incorporated into LB 1107, these dollars are in addition to the statutory minimum of $275 million.

I anticipate introducing legislation to clarify some aspects of the ballot proposal in an effort to ensure the will of the voters is respected and carried out. Assuming I am re-elected chairman of the General Affairs Committee, it will be heard before my committee, where we can make adjustments and tweaks as needed.

We also will be discussing how to address prison overcrowding. The director has put forth a proposal to build a $230 million facility, while others suggest comprehensive sentencing and prison reform would alleviate the need for such an investment.

As a fiscal conservative, I’m reluctant to spend nearly a quarter of a billion dollars of taxpayer money, plus ongoing operational costs, if we can avoid it and still protect public safety. We will see how those discussions go.

An underlying theme of the session will be trying to help our residents and businesses rebound from the impact of the pandemic. I will be introducing legislation geared toward that goal in the area of liability protections for our businesses, schools and health care providers, and tax relief for everyday Nebraskans.

I also will be introducing various measures geared toward growing our state. I will discuss many of these bills in future columns.

I always enjoy hearing from the people I represent. You can reach me at [email protected], or by calling my office at 402-471-2631 and leaving a message with my staff.

 

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