State of the State emphasizes taxes and licensing reform
He started by proposing only a 1.5% growth rate to the state’s budget while highlighting areas including property tax relief, making Nebraska more welcoming to veterans and the military, job licensing reform, public safety, and broadband access.
As was the case for the last biennium, the governor’s number one priority continues to be property tax. However, the proposals he put forward were not approaches that fundamentally reform the structure of the property tax or reduce the overall tax burden. Rather, he supports putting more state dollars into existing relief programs, and establishing a constitutional limit on how much property taxes could grow in the future.
Specifically, he said,
“This budget delivers on the promise of property tax relief by delivering $1.36 billion in relief over the biennium. This includes $550 million in direct property tax relief through the State’s Property Tax Credit Relief Fund, and over $596 million from the newly enacted LB1107 refundable property tax credit. I am also proposing roughly $214 million to provide for property tax payments under the current homestead exemption program.”
He also stated that if the Legislature fails to provide further action on property taxes that the people will vote to strip local governments of their taxing authority. He recapped the events of the 1960s when Nebraskans successfully voted for a constitutional amendment banning the state from levying a property tax, which effectively created the state income and sales tax.
Another fiscal item he highlighted is his attempt to make Nebraska a better place for military families. Previously, the Legislature partially exempted military retirement benefits from state income taxes, and this year the governor is proposing to exempt 100% of military retirement income.
One more focus for military families is occupational licensure reciprocity. Sen. Rita Sanders’ bill, LB389 was introduced at the governor’s request. It would guarantee teacher certification for military spouses who hold certification elsewhere.
Another occupational licensing bill, introduced by Sen. Dave Murman at the request of the governor, LB390, provides for universal recognition (or reciprocity) to practitioners in certain health care fields—essentially continuing the recognition for those fields that the governor implemented via executive order earlier in the year to deal with the pandemic.
Both LB389 and LB390 are steps in the right direction for licensing reform, however, the boldest occupational licensing reform bill introduced in the Unicameral this year remains LB263 by Sen. Tom Briese. The Briese bill would do what both of the other two bills propose, but would open recognition up to more occupations, and to workers both in military families and the civilian workforce.