Priorities for the 108th Nebraska legislature
At the writing of this blog, the 108th Nebraska Legislature is entering the 7th week of its 90-day session. A massive 812 bills were introduced in the first 10 days of the new session, each receiving a public committee hearing before full-day floor debates begin.
Striking this year is the attention the Governor and legislative leaders gave to reducing government burden on Nebraska’s families and businesses and setting the course for increased economic competitiveness … objectives our organization has long been known to support.
The Platte Institute’s major priorities for the current legislative biennium can be categorized into three primary topic areas:
- Adopting Tax & Fiscal Policies that promote prosperity and statewide economic competitiveness and growth.
- Entrepreneurship & Workforce initiatives aimed at helping Nebraska’s startups and small businesses.
- Government Efficiency & Transparency legislation intended to make government effective, efficient and customer-focused.
Tax & Fiscal Policy
In 2022, the Platte Institute endorsed the Blueprint Nebraska Tax Modernization bill, which offered a comprehensive approach to reforming the state’s tax code. Although LB1264 failed to emerge from the committee, the 107th Legislature was successful in passing legislation to marginally reduce income and property taxes over time.
This year, several State Senators introduced legislation on behalf of Governor Pillen to further address tax and fiscal policy in Nebraska. The Platte Institute has committed to supporting a number of these bills, including:
- LB804 & LB806, which accelerates the individual and corporate income tax reductions passed by the 107th Passage of these companion bills would reduce the top-bracket rate to 5.84% in the immediate year, rather than a prolonged phase-in.
- LB754, which takes income tax relief a step further to bring Nebraska’s rates more in line with peer states like Iowa. This bill will gradually lower both the individual and corporate top-bracket rate to 3.99% by 2027.
- LB783, which would eliminate the property tax levy authority of community college subdivisions and replace their property tax revenues with state funds.
Other tax-related legislation supported by the Platte Institute includes LB492 and LR23CA. LB492 is not a tax cut; however, it’s passage is critical and would allow Nebraska to remain competitive for new capital investments. LR23CA places language on the November 2024 general-election ballot to prohibit the state and any political subdivision from levying an inheritance tax. Not only is Nebraska an outlier among peer states when it comes to the inheritance tax, polling by the Platte indicates a solid majority of voters believe the local-taxing option is unjust and wrong.
Entrepreneurship & Workforce
Strengthening Nebraska’s workforce and removing barriers to small business prosperity and growth remain two cornerstone objectives for the Platte Institute.
Universal Licensing returns in 2023 as a major Platte Institute initiative. Closely aligned with objectives of Blueprint Nebraska, licensing reform offers the potential for easing labor shortages and streamlining workforce regulations. The Platte supported Universal Licensing bill, LB16, would provide an alternative way for licensing board to license experienced workers from outside of Nebraska.
Another major workforce initiative supported by Platte this year is LB587, the Insurance Regulatory Sandbox Act. This bill would create a regulatory sandbox program under the Department of Insurance. The proposal allows an applicant or participant to temporarily test innovative insurance products or services on a limited and supervised basis, without otherwise being regulated under existing laws of the state.
The Platte has also engaged on other legislative bills intended to help startups and small businesses. These range from LB321, a bill to assist Nebraska’s cottage food industry, to a series of bills that lessen restrictions on the State’s growing craft-brewery industry.
Government Efficiency & Transparency
The final priority category for the current legislative biennium focuses on the Blueprint Nebraska growth theme of “building a simpler, more efficient and effective government.”
This year, we have an opportunity on three fronts to increase the transparency of local and state government:
- LB304, which is a bill to require political subdivisions to publicly disclose annual payments to lobbyists and lobbying groups.
- LB254, which would provide greater government transparency by creating a publicly accessible internet archive of all video recordings of the legislature and its committee hearings.
- LB529, which provides adjustments and enhancements to Truth In Taxation legislation passed in previous sessions. As many may recall, the Truth In Taxation legislation provides guidelines for informing the public about property tax decisions made by local government subdivisions, including counties and school boards.
Other bills intended to improve government efficiencies that the Platte Institute is closely monitoring include:
- LB683, which would establish the Nebraska Broadband Office under the oversight of the Governor. Worth noting is that this legislation is intended to improve the effectiveness of administering funding for the federal and State broadband initiatives.
- LB624, a measure to improve alignment between the Nebraska Tourism Commission and the Department of Economic Development.