2017 Legislative Priorities
At the Lincoln Independent Business Association, we have been busy working on our legislative priorities for the 2017 session. There will be many big issues that get attention, including the recent vote to keep the death penalty. LIBA plans to ask senators to focus on a few of the following ideas:
Eliminate the Personal Property Tax on Nebraska Businesses. In 2014, Nebraska businesses paid more than $217 million in personal property taxes. The personal property tax not only costs businesses financially, but it is also costly in terms of the time and effort necessary to complete and file the appropriate tax returns, which are filed individually in each county in which a business owns personal property. Many of Nebraska’s nearby states do not impose any tax on personal property, including Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota. Indeed, experts report that there has been a national trend to shift away from personal property taxes, including states like Ohio and Michigan that have phased their personal property tax out.
Prevent the Issuance of Public Debt Without a Vote of the People. There seems to be a trend among local government entities in the Lincoln area where elected leaders are willing to pursue the issuance of bonds – and in turn incur public debt obligations – without a vote of the people. Since 2001, the City of Lincoln has issued more than $40 million of certificates of participation bonds without approval of the public under a special provision in statute that allows them to do this. More recently, the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners signaled its intent to pursue a fundamental change in state law that would allow them to issue bonds to construct bridges without a vote of the people. LIBA firmly believes that public debt should not be incurred except by vote of the people who will be on the hook for making future payments.
Reduce Nebraska’s Cell Phone Tax. At just under 25%, Nebraska ranks second highest in the country in terms of the tax rate we pay on use of our cellular telephones. This means that 25% of your family or business’s cell phone bill is tax! That amount is unreasonably high. This high tax has direct negative impacts on families and businesses.
Require Disclosure of the Bond Repayment Period and the Estimated Interest for All Bond Issues. When voters go to the polls to approve a bond issue, they are not given sufficient information to make an informed decision. For example, the $369 million Southeast Community College bond issue that appeared on Lincoln and Lancaster County ballots in November only listed the principal amount of the bond to be approved. No information about the expected interest or the length of repayment was provided to voters at the polls. The interest, however, was $154 million on top of the principal – bringing the total tax obligation to more than half a billion dollars. When individuals and businesses borrow money, law requires a truth-in-lending statement to be provided that outlines the repayment period, the interest rates, and the expected amount of interest to be paid. LIBA believes municipalities should be required to do the same. Information about the interest and anticipated length of repayment should be required in every advertisement when the bond issue is proposed and promoted and it should appear on the ballot.
Reduce Nebraska’s Income Tax. Nebraska income taxes on individuals and businesses are among the highest in the nation. High income tax rates have a detrimental impact on our economy by reducing the amount of money our businesses have to pay workers and reducing the amount of money we have to spend locally. The first step in improving our economy in Nebraska should be to reduce income tax rates to a level that would make us more competitive nationally.
LIBA will present our complete list of priorities at our December 20th membership luncheon. We will have around a dozen senators in attendance, and our speaker will be Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert. If you are interested in becoming a LIBA member, or attending this luncheon, please call me.
LIBA studies and promotes these types of issues that are important to businesses and our community. If you have an interest in joining LIBA, please call me at (402) 466-3419. LIBA membership is not restricted to just businesses. We also have “individual” memberships for those who want to help influence our local government decisions.
For more information on LIBA, visit Liba.org.