This is field trip season when fourth graders from across Nebraska come to visit their state capitol. I have really enjoyed meeting many young residents from District 30, their teachers and the brave parents who accompany them.
Last week, we had a group in the building from much farther away. The city of Lincoln, in cooperation with the U.S. State Department, brought several journalists from northern Africa and the Middle East to the Capitol to study freedom of the press. While here, they met with the Governor and Secretary of State. Then they spent some time observing our debate. As the host senator for the legislative part of their visit, I was able to greet them and welcome them to Nebraska.
Recently, the Legislature took up my motion to override the veto of LB 472. As you know, the bill would give counties the option to collect a sales tax for the express purpose of paying a federal judgment of $25 million or more, as long as property tax is also being collected for the payment, for just the time needed to make the payment.
For an override motion, each senator is allowed to speak as they would on any legislation. However, no amendments can be made and when debate is finished, a simple yes or no vote is taken. Thirty votes are required for an override, a greater number than the 25 needed to pass a bill.
The override vote for my bill was 41-8. I appreciate the support and understanding of my fellow senators in providing another tool that Gage County can use to pay off the judgement. This was not a vote against the governor, this was a vote for the bill.
And as I said in my statement on the floor, I pray this state never has a situation happen like the Beatrice 6 again. I pray no person ever has to go through what the Beatrice 6 went through. I pray a county never goes through anything like this again. This bill cannot correct all of those things. It can help pay off the judgment with something besides property taxes.
Two major committees sent out the results of several months’ work this week – the revenue package and the budget bill. Being a member of the Appropriations Committee, I can tell you that we have looked at every spending request and budget item before the Legislature. Balancing a budget of around $4.5 billion is no small task.
On the other hand, reforming our state’s tax structure is equally difficult for the Revenue Committee. I anticipate there will be a lot of changes in the revenue package before any final votes are taken. Obviously any proposed amendments regarding taxes will affect the state budget. So passage of these two major bills is a delicate balance and needs to be very deliberate.
What I want to see in any new tax package are safeguards that we will not end up in the same situation a few years down the road. I hope to see a more fair and equitable revenue system that meets the needs of the entire state, and one that is sustainable. We are scheduled to begin discussion on the revenue bill, LB 289, on Tuesday. We will begin debate on the budget the next day.
I mentioned the school students and international journalists who visited recently. It proves you are never too young or too old (or apparently, too far away) for a field trip to our state Capitol. Let me know if you are in the building, and please continue to contact me at email@example.com or 402-471-2620.