Nebraska lawmakers have been greatly divided over tax policy and school funding for months. The search for agreement has proved immensely difficult. In recent days, negotiators have made important progress by forging compromise on the key issues.
The new proposal goes before the full Legislature for debate today, and with a mere handful of days left in the current session, senators have a duty to keep the process moving forward. Hold spirited, honest debate on the bill, definitely. Scrutinize the bill’s details, absolutely. Amend it, if needed.
But don’t let the session fall into gridlock yet again.
Keep the process, and the policy discussion, alive. Move the bill forward.
Maintaining the status quo is not good enough. Killing the agreement through a successful filibuster would fail to respond to calls for needed property tax relief. It also would leave Nebraska, after December, as the only state without a business incentives program, automatically removing Nebraska from consideration for major projects.
The compromise pulls back in many ways from the previous legislation. Negotiators severed property tax relief from school funding — meeting a central demand from school districts. The proposal caps business incentives under the new ImagiNE Act at $25 million a year in the first two years, rising to $150 million by year five. Rather than make sweeping changes to school funding, the new proposal retains the current property tax credit and adds a refundable income tax credit against an individual’s property tax bill for local schools. The state would postpone for four years contributing $300 million toward a $2.6 billion project envisioned at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Compromises, it’s true, generally don’t earn much love. But reasonable compromise is an indispensable part of our democratic form of government. For proof, consider our national legislature, Congress. It regularly falls into paralysis because true believers on each side of an issue insist that theirs is the only view that should prevail.
But in a society as divided as ours, negotiation and compromise are the only reasonable way forward. And that’s absolutely the case at the State Capitol now with Nebraska’s need for action on tax policy and incentives.
The new agreement will face close scrutiny at the Legislature. That’s appropriate. So is strong debate. But so, too, is a constructive spirit to avoid stalemating yet again on these divisive issues. Lawmakers must find a path forward on these issues, using this compromise as the basic guide.
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