The North Bend Eagle


 

Legislative session entering home stretch

State Senator Charlie Janssen
Released 3/24/14

We are approaching the final stretch as the Legislature has approximately three weeks remaining in our 2014 session. I am pleased that we have prioritized tax relief this year, and hope that we can make even more progress on improving our tax code before we conclude next month.

One additional improvement I was able to make last week focused on retirement tax policy. During floor debate on the Legislature's main income tax relief proposal, LB 987, I was able to convince my colleagues to add a military retirement benefit income tax exemption to the standing bill.

My amendment will, for the first time in the history of Nebraska's income tax code, provide for a military retirement income exemption if certain conditions are met. This has been a long-term goal of mine and many other senators who served before me during past decades.

We devote an enormous amount of money to education. It is important for Nebraskans to have a voice in how it is spent.

I have worked diligently during my tenure in the Legislature to recognize the importance of retaining and recruiting our military retirees. Nebraska is one of only eight states who have no provisions for preferential treatment for military retirement benefits. This change will instantly move our state into a more competitive position to retain our talented retirees. We still have more work to do, but my amendment gets us started by including recognition of military retirement benefits in the code.

LB 987 now contains three important income tax policy improvements. It will index all four income tax brackets for inflation. This provision will end “bracket creep.” This will provide an estimated $100 million in tax reductions over the next ten years. The bill also exempts nearly all Social Security benefits from taxation. There will be up to a $58,000 exemption for married families filing taxes jointly and up to a $43,000 exemption for all other filings. Finally, military retirement benefits may be excluded up to a certain amount depending on the date of retirement and election of the retiree.

Last week, we also debated and advanced an education priority bill to Final Reading.

LB 1103 was selected by the Legislature's Education Committee chairwoman as her personal priority bill for this year. It charts out a course for K-12 public education in our state and seeks to develop measurable goals and priorities of our limited resources to achieve the best education possible for all of Nebraska's school children.

We devote an enormous amount of taxpayer resources to public education in Nebraska. It is important for all Nebraskans to have a voice in how these resources are allocated. General state aid to education alone is over $900 million a year in state General Fund dollars. Aid for special education students is over $200 million in additional General Funds. Assistance to the University of Nebraska, the Nebraska State Colleges, and local community colleges approaches $700 million in General Funds.

The education of our children is a top priority of the Legislature. It is of utmost importance that we provide the next generation of Nebraskans with a lifelong love of learning and individual development and advancement. In order to best provide for and pay for this priority, we need to receive input from Nebraskans on how we are doing and where we need to go. If LB 1103 passes, the Education Committee will conduct at least three public hearings across the state during the latter half of 2014 to receive your recommendations.

Please continue to share your thoughts on education policy, tax policy, and all other areas of interest to you that we are currently considering in the Legislature. I can be reached at 402.471.2625, cjanssen@leg.ne.gov, and District 15, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509.

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