Jenni Benon’s Midland Voices on Saturday made some valid points about how poorly our state Legislature has addressed property taxes and the funding of schools. However, embedded in the essay was a slam at a worthy bill, LB 364, the Opportunity Scholarships Act.
The act would allow individuals and corporations to take a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for their donations to a qualified private school scholarship fund. Her “slam” was that this was a credit for the wealthy and that it would lead to more revenue loss to the state. When I read the bill, nowhere do I see a carve-out for the wealthy. Anyone can claim the credit if they contribute to a scholarship fund, the credit limited to 50% of their income tax liability. Low- and middle-income students will benefit from these scholarships, which will help them attend the private school of their choice.
True, it will mean a revenue loss to the state, but dollars are going to private schools which, contrary to some opinions, are serving a public purpose, just as private entities like hospitals, day cares and grocery stores are serving the public. Reforming the state school aid formula would go a long way in reducing the reliance on property taxes, and replacing the state income tax with a sales tax would eliminate the need for targeted tax credits. Until those reforms are implemented, piecemeal tax credits for worthy goals are warranted.
Andrew Best, Omaha
Keep pension strong
I am a Nebraska Public Employees Retirement System (NPERS) retiree since 1995. A recent WH article mentioned that NPERS is 90%-plus vested to fulfill its financial obligations to retirees. I feel extremely fortunate to be the beneficiary of such excellent financial management.
I have deep compassion for OPS employees whose retirement future was severely damaged by the actions of some members of the OPS retirement board, leaving their retirement system vested at only 63%. Not only that, but financial experts have forecast that it will take 16 years to get the system up and running to where it should be.
Recently, the WH reported that Sen. Mark Kolterman has introduced LB582. Essentially, as I understand it, the purpose is to place the management of OPS retirement under control of NPERS. Again, I understand that means management only. Currently, there are laws that strictly forbid exchanging, loaning, borrowing, etc., between the two entities.
That is the point of this letter. I believe all NPERS beneficiaries are, or perhaps may be a little, leery of the arrangement, as many individuals will be appointed in addition to the NPRS board. NPRS participants want their system to continue to flourish. With legal safeguards in place, nothing untoward should take place.
Vigilance is the watchword.
Mike Johnson, Omaha
Reparations and history
I feel compelled to respond to Dave Reeble’s ill-informed letter published on March 17. The number of casualties from the Civil War does not preclude reparations. Post-Civil War, slavery was abolished, and former slaves were technically free. However, their ancestors were also free before they were violently captured from their homeland, sold as property and forced into a life of unpaid labor, among many other atrocities. We aren’t quite back to zero yet, are we? Furthermore, the newly freed slavery survivors and their descendants will live “free” in a society where they continue to be targeted with a deadly level of racism.
The ugly truth is that slavery was the foundation of wealth in our country. The lasting effects of slavery has stolen wealth from generations of Black and Brown Americans, and they are still apparent, to this day. The act of restoring freedom, no matter how violent, does not make up for 250 years of slavery and the subsequent racism and economic injustices that have existed in many forms since the Civil War. Racially insensitive views like this one prevent us from achieving equality. Mr. Reeble, I urge you to educate yourself on the history of racism in our country.
Kristen Dupree, Omaha
Best way to choose
Every elected official should be required to win a majority with broad support, but our system of primaries and plurality winners forces voters to choose between a final two. The general election candidates are often two who did not even win a majority in their own party primary.
If we want better candidates, we should adopt Ranked Choice Voting — already used in dozens of places across the U.S. — as proposed by State Sen. John McCollister in LB 125. RCV gives voters a ballot that allows them to rank as many candidates as they wish. If any candidate wins 50% plus one more vote, they win. But if not, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their voters’ second choice is tallied; this continues until there is a winner with a true majority.
RCV mitigates the toxic negativity that permeates politics. Candidates are incentivized to run on policies that the vast majority support, work with their “opponents” vying for second- and third-choice votes, and puts the polarizing effect of diehard partisanship on ice.
With Ranked Choice Voting, winners represent a true majority and only candidates with broad support can win. Every vote counts, even if your first choice is not the most popular. RCV encourages cooperation between candidates, disincentivizes negative campaigning and eliminates costly runoffs and primaries
There is no silver bullet in a democracy as big as ours — but it’s time we live up to its promises. We do not have to accept only two choices as “good enough.”
Melissa Amarawardana, Omaha
Politics, relief aid
All of our Republican congressional representatives voted against the Biden American Rescue bill. If Nebraskans think Biden’s relief/stimulus bill was so wrong, why is Nebraska accepting the money?
Nebraska’s lawmakers voted it against it, so how can we in good conscience accept it?
Or was it just political posturing to obstruct the new administration?
Karen Guilfoyle, Omaha