Abortion, Corporate Taxes Discussed in Legislature

April 27, 2021, 4:55 p.m. ·

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan speaks in the Legislature Tuesday (NET screenshot)

Listen To This Story

Talk of abortion mixed with arguments about corporate tax cuts and balancing the budget in the Nebraska Legislature Tuesday.

Nebraska lawmakers are continuing to discuss proposed tax cuts, made possible by higher-than expected state revenue. In a debate that began Monday night, they considered Sen. Joni Albrecht’s proposal to give a $2,000 tax credit to people who suffered the stillbirth of a child after at least 20 weeks gestation.

Supporters said the measure would help people with medical bills. Opposing the bill, Sen. Megan Hunt saw another motivation.

“Certainly stillbirth is very traumatic to the families it affects. But I’m concerned that this is less motivated by an interest in helping families with those costs, and more motivated as part of an overall effort to add legislative support to the idea that fetuses and embryos and blastocysts and zygotes are morally equivalent to a fully developed human being,” Hunt said.

Hunt said the bill is part of an effort by abortion opponents to establish legal personhood for fetuses at 20 weeks.

Sen. Suzanne Geist, supporting the proposal, rejected the connection Hunt was trying to make.

“This is not a pro-life, pro-choice issue ladies. This is a just a respect-and-care-for-a-grieving-family issue,” Geist said.

Tuesday morning, senators voted 34-2 to include the stillborn credit as part of a larger tax bill.

That tax bill also included a proposed reduction in the top corporate income tax rate, from just under 8 to just under 7 percent. That would match the top individual income tax rate, which is also used for businesses organized as S-corporations or limited liability companies. It would cost the state an estimated $5 million in lost revenue next year, increasing to an estimated $42 million a year three years after that.

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan said it’s important to have parity in tax rates between differently-organized companies. But Sen. Curt Friesen objected that the top rate is paid by only the small fraction of the more than 19,000 corporations in Nebraska that have income over $100,000.

“We are going to give 1,624 corporations a tax cut. And these’ll be the large corporations that I think 80 percent of the dollars will end up going out of state,” Friesen said.

Sen. John Stinner supported the proposal, saying even companies headquartered out of state can benefit Nebraska if they decide to expand here.

“I think when you start to look at where you want to expand next, a tax rate could play into that. And all we’re trying to do is incrementally start to make a statement that we’re trying to be as competitive as we possibly can,” Stinner said.

Sen. Steve Lathrop complained that the Legislature has about $200 million in revenue to decide what to do with, but $250 million in proposed tax cuts and $100 million in spending proposals. Lathrop said senators need to decide on priorities, not just vote on one tax cut after another.

“I love voting for tax cuts. Probably all of you do…but our conversation so far is, we’re going to take these one at a time. And at what point do we say what’s important from what isn’t?” Lathrop asked.

Linehan, chair of the Revenue Committee, acknowledged not everything being proposed would pass, and said some of the proposals would have to be scaled back between Tuesday’s first round of debate, known in legislative-speak as “general file,” and the second round, or “select file.”

“I understand we have a lot of pencil-sharpening to do between now and select. And I am committed to do that,” she said.

Senators voted 30-7 in favor of the corporate tax cuts; then gave first round approval to the overall tax bill on a vote of 41-1.