The writer, of Kearney, Neb., is a state senator who represents District 37 in the Nebraska Legislature.
Nebraska is very fortunate in having one of the strongest and most stable economies in the nation. This is due, in no small part, to our strong agriculture industry as well as updates our Legislature has made to our tax and incentive policies over the years to keep Nebraska competitive.
The tax proposals proposed by the governor this session were bold but unfortunately contained unintended consequences. During the public hearing on one of the governor’s tax proposals, the question “What does a modernized tax policy look like?” was asked of everyone who testified. That question stumped a lot of people, but it is a good question.
Although the bills did not advance, the discussion that was initiated continues, and this is a good thing. I believe we have learned, and will learn, a great deal from discussing these important issues.
Our Legislature has reviewed our tax system and has addressed a number of critical issues over the past couple of decades. These changes to our tax system are part of the reason why Nebraska has a much stronger economy than most other states. As opportunities have been identified, Nebraska has been able to react quickly in order to retain, attract and develop those opportunities.
Future efforts to update our tax system must be studied carefully so as not to stifle existing and future economic activity. The Legislature has tried to provide taxpayers a stable and fair tax environment and at the same time has endeavored to strengthen Nebraska’s economy for the future.
One caution: We are just now starting to turn the corner on what has been a very difficult economy for taxpayers and for the businesses that create jobs and invest in our state. We must first and foremost be sure that we provide our existing businesses a stable policy environment.
It is no secret that many states in much worse economic shape than ours are recruiting investments and jobs for their states. Make no mistake, those states are in Nebraska actively recruiting our companies, our people and our dollars.
We know from the testimony we heard this year that many business decisions will be made in the near future and over the next 12 months. Millions of new dollars will be invested and hundreds of jobs will be created somewhere as companies begin to make strategic long-range decisions.
This is one of the reasons I strongly urged my colleagues on the Revenue Committee to put forth renewable energy legislation this year. This legislation, in my view, is about capturing significant investment yet this year to assist our rural communities. These investments will be made somewhere, and we want them to be in Nebraska.
It is also why the Revenue Committee is moving ahead with two other proposals involving the alternative minimum tax and the loss-carry forward rule. Both policy changes can be accomplished this year and would put Nebraska in a more competitive position while we review our revenue system.
The last thing we want is to send a message that Nebraska is “on ice” until we complete a review of our current tax structure. That would be unwise and would put Nebraska at a real disadvantage, causing us to miss out on incredible opportunities to grow and strengthen our economy.
We have received a lot of good input, and I know we will receive a great deal more over the months ahead. We will seek input from experts, from our job creators, from our economic development professionals and from taxpayers and come back to you with a thoughtful proposal.
As we move forward, if we want to find the money it takes to fund the education of our children, pay for our roads, provide for the health care needs and well-being of all Nebraskans and invest in other important priorities for our state, we need to make sure we have an economic climate that is vibrant and growing at a steady pace.
Nebraska no longer competes with just our neighboring states; we must compete globally for people, jobs and investment. At the end of the day, we must put politics aside and do what is best for Nebraska.