Breathing a big sigh of relief

Greetings, District 36. Hooray, the 104th Legislative Session is nearly over and everyone can breathe a sigh of relief!

The final few days have been long and sometimes contentious. Each senator has worked very hard to represent his or her constituents and do what he or she believes is in the best interest of our state. I have often said that all the “easy” issues have been handled and we are charged with making decisions on the tough questions.

It is not surprising that there are significant differences of opinion. However, I’m proud of the work our senators do and the commitment that each senator makes to our state.

During the last days of the session, we passed both the tax bill, LB 958, and the education bill, LB 959. The education bill should help many rural schools but it does not fully address the inequity of how the school funding formula treats many rural schools.

The plain fact is our schools are doing a very good job of educating our kids and prudently managing their budgets. The problem is the current state aid formula is unfair to rural schools. Most schools in District 36 have lost a large portion of their equalization aid and now must rely on local property taxes to make up the difference.

There is a realization on the part of many senators that this issue must be addressed. It will be vital that the Education Committee address this issue next year.

The tax bill, LB 958, does not answer all the demands of those asking for property tax relief but it continues to move us in the right direction.

Sen. Mike Gloor, chair of the Revenue Committee, described our approach as hitting singles and bunts, not a home run. Home runs are hard to come by at the Legislature.

I was very happy that the restrictions on communities and counties originally proposed in the bill were stripped out of the final bill.

These measures would have been counterproductive by restricting our counties and communities in their efforts to grow. At the end of the day, I believe the Legislature should create a framework that encourages growth and economic development in Nebraska.

LB 958 includes an additional $20 million of direct relief on property taxes for agricultural land. Again, this is not a home run, but we are headed in the right direction.

I believe our senators are committed to looking at our entire tax structure. The state and local governments derive revenue from income, sales and property taxes. Changes in one tax affects what must be done with other taxes.

We all want good schools, we want safe roads, we want police protection, we want health services and many other services. All of these services have a cost and must be paid for with our tax dollars.

When you ask to have your taxes reduced, think about what services you are willing to give up. These are very difficult choices but this is a discussion we must have.

In the upcoming weeks I will be talking about what we accomplished this session and what we did not move forward.

I look forward to spending time in the district following the session. Your input on issues is very important to me and to the process.

Please feel free to contact my office at any time.