Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to johnc@cfra.org.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Center for Rural Affairs March 1, 2005 NE Legislative Update

-- from the desk of Jon Bailey, Director Rural Research and Analysis Program
Center for Rural Affairs

Legislative Update
March 1, 2005

State Budget: Forecasting Board Increases Revenue Estimate

The Nebraska State Forecasting Board met on February 25 and possibly changed the entire dynamic of the Legislature’s budget deliberations.

The Forecasting Board increased the projection for state general fund receipts for the current fiscal year by $83 million. Revenue projections for the next fiscal year (2005-06) were set at $90 million more than previous projections. And the projection for the 2006-07 fiscal year is $110 million greater. In total, the Forecasting Board increased revenue projections by $283 million for the three years.

Of course, this will place pressure on the Legislature to increase spending in the state budget being prepared, particularly for those programs that were cut or eliminated in recent years. The Governor and Sen. Pederson, chair of the Appropriations Committee, both cautioned against this temptation.

The Forecasting Board meets again in April.

Appropriation Committee Hearings

The Appropriations Committee continues its hearings on agency and program budgets.

March 1 – Health and Human Services

March 2 – Department of Corrections, State Fire Marshal, Liquor Control Commission, Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice and Commission on Public Advocacy

March 3 – State Fair, Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Banking and Finance

March 8 – Attorney General, Department of Education, Library Commission and Arts Council

March 9 – Department of Economic Development, Game and Parks, Historical Society and Military Department

March 10 – Transportation Day: Motor Vehicles, Railway Council, Roads

March 11 – Veterans’ Affairs, Workers Compensation, Industrial Relations, Public Employees Retirement, Investment Council

Bills Update

Any bill designated a Priority Bill will also have a “P” attached to its number (for example, LB 123P). The chief sponsor of the bill is listed in parentheses.

The words Support or Oppose after a bill description indicate where the Center for Rural Affairs has taken a position on the bill. If neither word is indicated, the Center has not taken a position at this time.

NOTE: Once a bill is Indefinitely Postponed (killed) or signed into law, we will remove it from the Legislative Update list.

Rural Development

LB 28 (Connealy) – The “Endow Nebraska Act.” The bill would provide a tax credit for a contribution to a qualified charitable organization. The bill sits on Select File. Support

LB 59 (Mines) – Would change the provision in the Microenterprise Development Act defining “microenterprise” to allow for microenterprise loans up to $35,000 (from $25,000). On February 17 the bill was advanced to preparation for Final Reading. Support

LB 273 (Cunningham) – Would create the “Building Entrepreneurial Communities” program through a $1 million grant program for each of the next two years. On March 1, the bill was advanced to General File by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on a 6-1 committee vote (Senators Brown, Burling, Fischer, Langemeier, Mines, and Schimek voted “yes”; Senator Wehrbein voted “no”; and Senator Pahls was absent). The Committee amended the bill by reducing the program cost to $200,000. Support

Agriculture/Livestock

LB 71P (Stuhr) – Would re-authorize the Agricultural Opportunities and Value-Added Partnership Act (formerly the LB 1348 grant program). This program was terminated through budget cuts in 2001 and 2002. This bill would reauthorize the program through 2009. On February 24, the bill was advanced to Select File unanimously. There was some concern during debate whether this was an effective program and whether the state budget would afford $1 million (through the companion bill LB 71A). Sen. Stuhr has designated this as her Priority Bill. Support

LB 132 (Cunningham) – This bill modifies the Nebraska Pasteurized Milk Law by providing exemptions to small-scale dairies and processors to the often-expensive bottling and processing requirements, and by allowing dairies and farmers to advertise on-farm sales of non-pasteurized milk (currently, the sale of non-pasteurized milk cannot be advertised). The bill sits on General File. Support

LB 191 (Preister) – Would permit local requirements for environmental protection and financial assurance under the state’s environmental laws (including the Livestock Waste Management Act). On February 25, the bill was Indefinitely Postponed (killed) by the Natural Resources Committee.

LB 346 (Agriculture Committee) – Would modify several provisions of the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act all with the goal to increase utilization of the tax credit. The bill sits on General File. Support

Education/Schools

LB 126P (Raikes) – Would mandate the “assimilation” of Class I schools (elementary-only schools) into K-12 school districts for the 2006-07 school year. The bill awaits action on Select File. Oppose.

LB 129 (Education Committee) – An overhaul of the formula for state aid to schools. The bill is pending in the Education Committee.

Taxes

LB 133 (Connealy) – Would provide a renewable energy sales tax credit, and would provide any generator of electricity from a renewable resource a credit against any sales and use tax. The bill is pending in the Revenue Committee.

LB 309 (Connealy) – Would establish the Small Business Rural Microenterprise Tax Credit. The bill would provide for $2 million worth of tax credits annually for small business (with five or fewer employees or beginning farmers/ranchers) in areas with declining population or low incomes or federal enterprise zones. The bill is pending in the Revenue Committee. Support

LB 404 (Wehrbein) – Would create a tax credit for modernization and expansion of livestock facilities. The goal of the bill is to “attract and retain investment in Nebraska’s livestock industry.” The bill is pending in the Agriculture Committee.

Business Tax Incentives

In this year’s session there are numerous bills relating to amending Nebraska’s business tax incentive laws or creating new tax incentive programs. The primary bill is LB 646, the Advantage Nebraska Act, which would create a new, more generous tax incentive program to take the place of LB 775. The Fiscal Note for LB 646 estimated a revenue impact of the new incentive program of $61 million by 2011 (in addition to the ongoing LB 775 revenue impact). LB 646 awaits action in the Revenue Committee.

Other

LB 208 (Stuthman) – Provides for the appropriation of $1.75 million annually for the next two years to the state’s five federally qualified health clinics to provide services to the uninsured (the clinics are in Omaha, Lincoln and Scottsbluff). The bill is scheduled for hearing before the Appropriations Committee on March 1. Support

LB 550 (Jensen) – Requires a plan to be submitted by December 1, 2005, for the financial support of community health centers and emergency medical services in the state. The bill awaits action by the Health and Human Services Committee.

LB 655 (Beutler) – Would create the Task Force on Small Employers Health Plans that would review data and policy ideas concerning health care plans for small employers and recommend policy steps for the state on this issue. The Center for Rural Affairs testified in support of the bill at its public hearing before the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee on February 22. Support.

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