Big Issues for Nebraska in the Next Legislative Session

There’s another Husker season to get ready for – the reconvening of the 2016 Nebraska Legislature, which takes place on January 6, 2016. Important issues to be debated include closing the health care coverage gap, reforming taxes, protecting independent livestock producers, and developing renewable energy.

Independent Livestock Production
LB 176, the bill that would lift our ban on packer ownership of livestock, will be back. We opposed the bill last session and were able to stop it from advancing beyond the second round of debate. We expect the bill will come up early in the legislative session as it will again be prioritized by Senator Schilz and will pick up where it left off last year.

It is our fundamental belief that farmers should own hogs, not packers. Meatpackers want to own hogs because that’s where the profit is, and they’d much rather someone else stood all the risk, did all the work, and debt-financed the buildings. The production contracts they offer are as one-sided as imaginable.

Tax Policy
Sure to stir debate this session, tax policy proposals have been and will be good and bad. We weigh them based on how they measure up to principles we developed in 1992 and have stood by ever since. Those principles call for a broader, more stable, and more efficient tax system, with balanced sources of revenue – about one-third from income taxes, one-third from property taxes, and one-third from a combination of sales and miscellaneous taxes.

During tax debates, we hope to lift the cap on the Microenterprise Development Tax Credit. This program provides investment tax credits for creating or expanding micro businesses to revitalize economically depressed areas. The program is capped at $2 million, compared to uncapped large business tax incentive programs. We need to level the playing field.

Renewable Energy Development
Several interim studies focused on how Nebraska can increase renewable energy development. In the 2016 session senators should consider how Nebraska can add incentives to develop renewables, make it easier to transport renewable energy, and how to best comply with the Clean Power Plan.

Nebraska has a lot of potential for wind energy, but we are still far behind other states. The legislature has an opportunity to tackle this issue and bring new economic development. 

Health Care Coverage
Roughly 77,000 hard-working Nebraskans are without health care coverage. They do not qualify for Medicaid, can’t afford private insurance, and their employers do not provide health insurance.

Last session Senator Campbell introduced LB 472 to solve the coverage gap issue. It’s unclear if that bill will be back or if a new bill will be introduced. Regardless, we will support legislation that seeks to close the health care coverage gap.

We’ll keep you informed as debates occur. Please talk to your senators about these issues!