Background Photo Provided by the
Nebraska Tourism Commission
Offical Nebraska Government Website
Office of Governor Pete Ricketts

Balancing the Budget and Tax Relief

With only a handful of days left in the 2018 legislative session, there’s a lot of work for senators to accomplish.  In the coming days, I’m working with senators on two big priorities: Balancing the budget without raising taxes and delivering major tax relief for our farm families and homeowners.

The past couple of weeks, the Legislature has been debating adjustments to the state budget.  In January, I recommended a budget to the Legislature which cuts government spending, balances the budget without raising taxes, and includes new pro-life language to ensure your tax dollars don’t fund abortion services while protecting federal funding for critical healthcare services.

This new pro-life language is critical because two state audits have found serious financial irregularities in the use of  Title X grant dollars, which are intended for cancer screening and family planning services.  One of those audits found specific instances where Title X funds were inappropriately used to provide abortion services—a very serious lapse which could threaten the State’s eligibility for federal funding.  We already have language in our budget to ensure other kinds of funding do not get spent on abortions.  This year’s proposal takes a logical next step: If you provide abortion services or refer or provide directive counsel for abortions, you cannot receive Title X funding.  This helps ensure taxpayer dollars will not subsidize abortions directly or indirectly.  Facilities that focus on providing life-giving healthcare, not abortion services, should receive our Title X tax dollars.  Under our proposal, all persons eligible to receive Title X services can continue to receive them.

Some Senators who oppose this pro-life budget language are recklessly holding up the entire state budget.  By filibustering the mainline budget, they are putting critical budget priorities at risk.  If these budget adjustments do not pass, vital state services for our children will be at risk.  For instance, due to an influx of children into our child welfare system, funding will run out in May.  School districts will be short state aid.  And without these adjustments, the state will overspend in other areas.  It is absolutely critical that the Legislature move the budget forward and get it to my desk with the pro-life budget language.

With only days left in the session, the clock is also ticking on tax relief efforts.  I am excited to report that the Revenue Committee recently voted to advance LB 947, the Nebraska Property Tax Cuts and Opportunities Act.  With this action, major property tax relief will now be debated and voted on by the Unicameral Legislature this session.

The Nebraska Property Tax Cuts and Opportunities Act would deliver major tax relief to farmers, ranchers, homeowners, and businesses.  If enacted alongside the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund, it would provide over $4.5 billion in tax relief over 10 years.  Not only does it offer real tax relief, it does so within the limitations of our budget.  It cuts taxes without raising other taxes or making harmful policy decisions which would inhibit growth in our state.

This week, there is big, new momentum for tax relief.  On Monday, the Nebraska Farm Bureau, the Nebraska State Chamber, and several other agriculture and business groups joined me at the State Capitol to help push for tax relief.  It was an impressive show of unity from urban and rural groups, which have been at odds over some tax policy efforts in the past.  By bringing pro-growth groups together, we can achieve major tax relief this session.

Getting tax relief done, however, will be very difficult.  Even among Senators who want tax relief, we still need to develop consensus.  Some Senators want no tax relief at all.  Over the coming days, proponents of LB 947 will be reaching out to Senators to make the case to them for supporting the Property Tax Cuts and Opportunities Act.  To win their support, we need the help of Nebraskans like you.  I encourage you to contact your State Senator and make sure that they know you want to see the Nebraska Property Tax Cuts and Opportunities Act pass.  Your State Senator’s contact information can be found at www.NebraskaLegislature.gov.

Exciting opportunities lie ahead in the closing days of the legislative session, but it is going to take teamwork and focused effort to get the budget and tax relief done.  If you have any thoughts you would like to share, we want to hear them.  Give my office a call at 402-471-2244 or email me at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov.

###

Audio: