Nebraska state senators are sent to Lincoln to be problem-solvers. But the Legislature has failed that duty by stalemating — session after session — over how to achieve property tax relief and provide a major increase in school funding. That failure needs to stop this session.
It needs to stop next week, in fact, by approving the sensible compromise legislation that will enable Nebraska to finally move forward on property tax relief and school aid policy.
Nebraska school districts play a key role in this debate. Legislative negotiators this week reached reasonable compromise on several major points of concern raised by school officials. That is welcome flexibility on an issue that’s long generated heated disagreement.
Now, school districts need to reciprocate by demonstrating similar flexibility, looking to Nebraska’s statewide interest. All parties need to give a bit in order for this to work. After all, as part of this package the state will be significantly increasing its aid to schools. The last thing Nebraska needs on this issue is unbending naysaying by lawmakers and school districts.
The key aims of the legislation, after all, are crucial. Nebraskans would receive property tax relief on multiple fronts — residential, agricultural, commercial. And after years of justified complaint, Nebraska would finally begin to move up from the 49th position in state aid to schools.
It will be a horrendous failure by the Legislature if senators continue their needless stalemate at a time when negotiations have produced sensible compromise. Senators need to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Time in this 60-day “short session” is quickly slipping away, and it would be irresponsible for senators to spend these final weeks setting down further roadblocks to agreement.
The Legislature similarly would be shirking an all-important duty if it fails to approve a new version of the state’s business incentives law. The current legislation is a major improvement on existing law, which expires at the end of this year, and the bill sponsor, State Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward, has long been open to responsible compromise.
Senators need to be wide awake to the economic stakes involved. The coronavirus threat has begun to cause tremendous disruptions nationwide, with further uncertainties ahead. Our state and country are facing the serious possibility of a recession. In the face of such conditions, the Legislature would be grossly irresponsible to allow our business incentives policy to expire with no well-crafted replacement.
The Legislature has been mired in deadlock on these issues for far too long. The time has arrived for action. Lawmakers need to do their duty, to serve Nebraska’s best interest.