Tax Cuts Fall Short; Abortion Ban to be Debated in Legislature

March 25, 2022, 5 p.m. ·

Senator Joni Albrecht during debate Friday (Nebraska Public Media screenshot)
Sen. Joni Albrecht during debate Friday (Nebraska Public Media screenshot)

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A proposal to cut taxes fell short today/Friday in the Legislature. And senators voted to have a debate on a proposal to ban abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

The tax cut bill contained a number of different elements. It would have reduced the top individual income tax rate from just under 7 to just under 6 percent over 5 years. It would have cut the top corporate tax rate from 7.5 percent to just under 6 percent over four. It would have increased income tax credits to offset property taxes, which are scheduled to decline two years from now, to maintain their value and increase by up to 5 percent a year. And it would have phased out income taxes on Social Security payments over the next three years.

Sen. Tom Briese said the bill could be transformative.

“We need to go with this. This is a package deal that’s going to benefit every Nebraskan out there -- your constituents, my constituents. It’s not weighted towards ag, it’s not weighted toward rural Nebraska. (It’s) very, very beneficial to our urban taxpayers,” Briese said.

Sen. Matt Hansen faulted supporters of the corporate income tax cuts for linking that proposal to the others in the bill.

“This corporate income tax cut is so egregious and so out of bounds and has so little support in this body, they have to stack it on top of three much more popular bills in order to get it passed and will threaten to kill more popular bills if they don’t get it,” Hansen said.

Sen. Curt Friesen defended the linkage, and said legislators need to limit how much tax revenue they take in.

“This is compromise. We can argue about where we’re going to end up in four or five years or ten years, but we can’t continually take as much money as we’ve been taking, because I don’t see how we can hold down our spending in a responsible manner because we’ve shown that this year. If you give us money, we’ll spend it,” Friesen said.

Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, a registered Democrat in the officially nonpartisan Legislature, faulted Republicans’ priorities.

“People home in Nebraska, I hope you know and I hope you recognize that the Republicans in this body do not care about you and your life and your stability and your welfare. They just care about corporate welfare. Not seniors, not people who are homeless or housing insecure. Not people who don’t have access to food. Corporate welfare,” Cavanaugh said.

Sen. John Lowe supported the proposed tax cuts, saying they responded to the main thing people ask him about. And he urged people to base their votes in the May 10 primary according to who supported the tax cuts, signified by a green light on the Legislature’s vote board.

“Record the vote on how everybody votes, because in another month and a half, a month and a couple of days, we’ll be going to the polls and voting. Vote green for those who vote green on this. Don’t vote for those that don’t vote green on this,” Lowe said.

How senators voted on tax cut bill Friday (source: Nebraska Legislature)
How senators voted on tax cut bill Friday (source: Nebraska Legislature)

When lawmakers reached the four hours allowed for debate, Sen. Brett Lindstrom, the introducer of the Social Security tax cut bill to which all the other proposals were attached, called for a cloture vote, to cut off debate and vote on the overall proposal. That requires 2/3 of the Legislature, or 33 votes. But only 32 senators voted for cloture, with the rest not voting or absent.

Ordinarily, that kills a proposal for the rest of the session. But in an interview after the vote, Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, chair of the tax-writing Revenue Committee, said the tax cuts could still be enacted in a different bill.

“We’ve got other vehicles. This was just (a) hiccup. We’ll be fine,” Linehan said.

And Linehan suggested that if tax cuts don’t pass, the budget, which contains spending items favored by some of the senators that didn’t vote, could be in trouble.

“If they want a budget, we need tax cuts. We passed their budget. They did not pass our tax cuts,” she said.

The budget bills have passed through two rounds of debate, but still need one more vote of approval for final passage.

Friday afternoon, senators took up a contentious abortion proposal. Sen. Joni Albrecht introduced the so-called “trigger bill,” which would ban abortions in Nebraska if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its Roe v. Wade decision.

There were not enough votes in the Judiciary Committee to advance the bill, so Albrecht used a legislative rule that allows a proposal to be pulled from committee to the full Legislature for debate, if a majority of senators, 25 in the 49-member Legislature, agree to do so.

Albrecht said the proposal is important enough to pull it out of the Judiciary Committee.

“They have had ample time to decide what to do with the bill. And it has neither advanced nor been indefinitely postponed. And it addresses in my opinion the most important public policy issue there is. That’s protecting the right to life of an innocent human being,” Albrecht said.

Sen. Megan Hunt vowed opponents would wage an all-out fight against the bill.

“We’re going to take every minute possible on this bill and make it as difficult as possible to pass, in a state where, I know, the majority of people in this legislative body are supportive of taking away that right to choose,” Hunt said.

The pull motion succeeded on a vote of 28-13. It will take at least 33 votes to overcome a filibuster when the bill itself is debated.