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Editorial: The Legislature's duty on tax relief, business incentives: Get it done

Editorial: The Legislature's duty on tax relief, business incentives: Get it done

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State Sen. Jim Scheer

State Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk, right, is speaker of the Nebraska Legislature. 

This is a joint editorial by the Omaha World-Herald, the Lincoln Journal Star and several other Lee Enterprises newspapers.

The Nebraska Legislature resumes its session on Monday, and lawmakers have an all-important obligation when it comes to approving property tax relief and revamping the state’s business incentives:

Get it done.

The challenges are many. Senators will have only a small window of time — a mere 17 days — to decide those and other issues. With 33 votes needed to override a filibuster, sponsors face tough sledding in moving the tax and business incentives proposals forward. And if some lawmakers fail to get all that they want, there’s considerable risk they may well sulk, disengage and allow the tax and incentives bills to die, putting their personal pique above the good of the state.

The Legislature must not let that happen. There’s an enormous need for property tax relief across the state. And the current business incentives law expires at the end of this year, which risks putting Nebraska at a major disadvantage against competitor states. The current incentives proposal, Legislative Bill 720, can achieve major improvements over existing policy. LB 720 imposes cost constraints, removes overly complicated procedures, provides incentives for higher-wage jobs and has specific provisions to help rural communities. It would position Nebraska for sound economic development.

So: Lawmakers, get it done.

After the main tax proposal, Amendment 2870, is debated, perhaps State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, chairwoman of the Revenue Committee, will be able to show she has the 33 votes to move forward against the filibuster. But if not, there’s no reason the process need stall out, and it’s imperative that senators understand that. They have a duty to stay engaged. To be flexible. To negotiate seriously with each other on alternate approaches.

Follow that responsible course if necessary, senators, and you can craft a reasonable compromise. You must.

Get it done.

With only 17 days, lawmakers have a big obligation to use their time efficiently. Besides taxes and incentives, the Legislature must decide on the budget (currently on second reading) and other needed legislation, such as stronger safeguards to protect students from sexual assault at school. After being sidelined for months by the virus emergency, some senators will be tempted to indulge in long-winded speeches at the microphone, wasting precious time. They must resist that temptation. Legislative leaders must enlighten them, if needed, about proper behavior.

To their credit, Speaker Jim Scheer, the Legislature’s Executive Board, staff and public health advisers have done worthwhile planning to protect the health of senators and staff on the legislative floor. Plastic shields will separate senators. Lawmakers will be spread out, with some working under the balconies. Senators with particular health concerns will have the option to sit in the balconies if they choose.

This session has the potential to be a success that benefits Nebraska greatly. But only if lawmakers show the proper professionalism and dedication.

Senators, your duty couldn’t be clearer.

Get it done.

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