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Brewer at the Legislature: Too many senators love taxing, spendingTell North Platte what you think
Photo by Nebraska Unicameral
Tom Brewer

We had another short, but very busy week.

Monday was a recess day. We did three late-night sessions debating the budget this week.

In spite of the $1 billion deficit, the budget we have still increases spending 1.5%. Many of us feel this is unacceptable, so the budget as written faces a lot of push-back.

I think some of my colleagues are using some pretty rosy predictions about future revenue growth that I don’t think will actually be there. If we don’t cut more spending in this budget, I think there is a good chance the governor will end up calling a special session later in the year where we will have to come back and do across-the-board spending cuts.

We shall see how this all unfolds in the days ahead. I hope the legislature can muster the courage to make some carefully considered cuts now, instead of waiting for a special session and using an ax to do it.

LB 461 is a bill from Sen. Jim Smith (Papillion) on income and property taxes. It was debated again this week.

I introduced an amendment (AM 1104), but it was so far down in the queue it was never debated / voted on before the time was up. When the time for debate the speaker has allocated has passed, a motion called “cloture” is made. What this does is end debate on every other motion or amendment pending, so a vote can be taken on just the underlying bill.

It takes 2/3 of the legislature (33) votes to “invoke cloture” and end debate. The cloture motion on LB 461 failed on a vote of 27 “for” -- with mine included in that number. Nine voted “against” the motion. Since the motion failed, this means debate would continue. Since the time allotted by the speaker was all used up, no further debate was allowed and LB 461 was effectively killed for this session.

It is important to pay close attention to cloture votes because they are often more important than voting on the bill itself. Thirteen senators were “present but not voting” on this cloture motion.

Such a vote is often just as good as a “no” vote, but it is a lot easier to explain to a constituent. I really don’t like “present but not voting” on cloture motions, which is why I made a motion and tried to change the rules early in the session.

LB 461 was far from perfect, but failing the cloture vote prevented voting to advance the bill to select file, where we would have another chance to amend it. I fear LB 461 may have been the last chance to do something about property taxes in Nebraska this session and that really upsets me.

Property taxes are out-of-control in Nebraska. We have the fifth highest property taxes in the country and it is getting worse. They are crushing ag producers, which is the biggest driver of the Nebraska economy. They drive people and business out of the state.

They are out of control because the way Nebraska funds K-12 schools. The current system is terribly unfair to rural school districts. That system is completely broken and in urgent need of reform.

Nebraska is 49th in the country in terms of state aid to schools. It is the No. 1 concern of the constituents in the 43rd District and despite everything my colleagues and I have done, we simply can’t get the bills we need passed because there are too many senators in the legislature who love taxing and spending.

There might be another bill I could offer my property tax amendment to coming up, but like everything else this year, finding 33 votes to invoke cloture so we can actually take a vote on the bill is very difficult.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov or call us at (402) 471-2628.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 5/5/2017
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