J.L. Schmidt, Statehouse Correspondent, Nebraska Press Association
Anyone who pays attention to the Nebraska Legislature knows that a short session is never a good time to try to discuss, let alone pass, major legislation. Those same people also know that senators have spent years dancing around the issue of tax equity, often referred to as the three-legged stool.
Those three legs, property tax, sales tax and income tax must be the same length to make the stool stable. For years, the property tax leg has been the longest, thus making the stool wobbly. Governor Pete Ricketts and what he calls a broad coalition of Nebraska business and agriculture groups want to shorten that leg with a pending bill (LB947). That’s property tax relief. Tax adjustments, according to the governor, will make the state a better place to do business and grow the economy.
Opponents say cutting property taxes is a bad idea when the state is already short on money coming in. Duh. School funding and government services rely heavily on property tax income and would, likewise, suffer from cuts. Taking money from the state’s cash reserve (rainy day) fund to pay nearly $40 million for the proposed package is a bad idea. Always.
Omaha Senator Burke Harr said during floor debate on the bill that we are treating the cash reserve fund as a checking account instead of a savings account. That fund has declined from $750 million in 2014 to an estimated $250 million if funds are used for this tax proposal. The whittling away – about $500 million – over four years is either gross incompetence or dereliction of duty, said former Senator Al Davis of Hyannis. He also noted the proposal would provide limited and very likely short-term relief at best. Estimates are that rural taxpayers will receive a 2 percent reduction in their property taxes and urban taxpayers will receive $25.
I agree with the analysis of the OpenSky Policy Institute that the bill would likely create more problems than it solves. It is not the magic bullet that some were hoping for, it doesn’t even scratch the surface and it certainly doesn’t represent the work product of a thoughtful and lengthy discussion. That discussion, in my humble opinion, still needs to happen. Maybe in a special session, maybe next session.
The pressure to get something done this year is driven by the looming threat of a ballot initiative. That proposal would provide property tax relief distributed through a state income tax refund or credit equal to 50 percent of local school property taxes. It carries an estimated $1.1 billion price tag. If it passes, lawmakers would have to figure out how to fund it.
Ricketts has spent four years saying that Nebraskans want property tax relief. He said it’s time for Nebraska to change its image as a high tax state. If that happens, he said, the economy would grow because businesses will be attracted to locate in Nebraska. Proponents say that 6 percent growth will pay for the tax cuts. Opponents say the growth projected by the Economic Forecasting Advisory Board is only 4 percent.
Unfortunately, the bill comes at a time when Nebraska faces considerable uncertainty regarding future revenues and the ability to fund health care, education and other key services because of changing state demographics and the unclear impact of federal tax changes. Harr said he would be more comfortable having a discussion about funding schools since education is the most reliant on property taxes.
The experience of states such as Kansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana illustrate that LB 947’s tax reductions are unlikely to pay for themselves in terms of new economic activity. This means service cuts or increases in other revenue sources would likely be needed. Not a good idea.
------ J.L. Schmidt has been covering Nebraska government and politics since 1979. He has been a registered independent for 17 years. Contact him at:
Nebraska Press Association
845 S Street
Lincoln NE 68508
President Trump Delivers an Address to the Nation on the use of chemical weapons in Syria
Pete Ricketts, Nebraska Governor
A Balanced, Pro-Life Budget
Balancing the budget without raising taxes has been a top priority this legislative session. We started the session with a $200 million gap between budgeted spending and projected state revenues. In January, I made recommendations on how to cut the budget along with new pro-life budget language. Last week, I received and signed the budget bills, which achieve our goal. Thanks to the hard work of many, we have a balanced budget that constrains spending, puts in place new pro-life budget language, and contains several other important priorities.
During the four legislative sessions I have been Governor, senators and I have worked to constrain spending. Our collaboration has brought great results. When I entered office, government spending was growing at 6.5 percent a year, which was simply unsustainable. After years of hard work we have been able to cut the rate of growth in state spending by over 90 percent. With these new budget adjustments, state spending will grow at just 0.5 percent.
Nebraska’s time-honored tradition of balancing our budget has earned our state national distinctions. Nebraska ranks among the best states for having the lowest debt supported by state taxes per capita. The Mercatus Center at George Mason University ranks Nebraska as having the sixth best fiscal condition in the nation. We have also consistently maintained a AAA credit rating.
The new budget also contains important new pro-life budget language. Nebraska is a pro-life state and our budget should reflect those values. This year, senators and I worked together on new budget language to ensure that your taxpayer dollars do not directly or indirectly subsidize abortion services in the Title X program. The pro-life language in the budget ensures that Title X taxpayer dollars do not fund abortion services, including abortion referrals, at clinics in Nebraska. It is important to note that the budget maintains the existing level of Title X funding, which provides reproductive healthcare for thousands of Nebraska women and men.
As we balanced the budget, we also made important investments to address challenges our state is facing. The budget I signed increases funding for child welfare services to address a significant increase of children coming into our child welfare system. The budget contains an additional $2.7 million in funding for Nebraskans with developmental disabilities. We have been working to take care of these Nebraskans. In 2017, the Division of Developmental Disabilities made more service offers than the last five years combined. This funding will allow the state to provide an even higher level of service to one of our most vulnerable populations.
The budget also makes a new investment in our Corrections system. The Legislature adopted my recommendation to fund an additional 100 beds at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. This builds on three other capital construction projects the Legislature and I have agreed upon in the last two years. Together, these investments are helping transform our Corrections system. It’s important to remember that 93 percent of inmates who come into our prisons eventually reenter society. We are working to build a Corrections system that protects public safety by delivering programming for inmates that helps reduce the rate of re-offense when they finish their sentences.
Getting these budget adjustments done was not easy. Many senators played a role, but I want to especially thank Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk and Appropriations Committee Chairman John Stinner of Gering for their leadership in guiding these adjustments through the legislative process. Additionally, Senator Mike Hilgers of Lincoln and Senator Dan Watermeier of Syracuse deserve major thanks for their work on the pro-life budget language.
As we move forward, my administration continues to work to make state government more effective and more efficient. We are working every day to be a good steward of your taxpayer dollars by identifying ways to eliminate waste and deliver better service. If you have questions about federal tax reform or any other legislation, you are welcome to contact my office. We can be reached at 402-471-2244 or email@example.com.
------ Pete Ricketts is Governor of Nebraska.
He can be contacted at:
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 94848
Lincoln, NE. 68509-4848
The Crete News welcomes letters to the editor and guest opinions (of less than 350 words). None will be published, however, without the signatures and address of the writer(s). Letter must be received by Mondays at noon.
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Staff Editorial: Eating right
By John Acree
Nearly every doctor will tell you the same thing: If you want to get healthy, and stay healthy, you need to exercise and eat right.
Everyone understands the exercise part. Not everyone likes it, but we all understand it. But what does it mean to eat right?
Eating right means eating the type of foods that give you the nutrients you need to maintain your health, feel good, and have plenty of energy. Exercise, after all, takes enery. The nutrients you need include protein, carbohydrates, fat, water, vitamins, and minerals.
Eating right can help keep your body healthy. Getting the nutrients you need from foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains will help you to feel your best and give your body the energy it needs.
What should I eat, and how much?
1. You should eat at least five cups of fruits and vegetables. A diet rich in plant foods is probably healthier than a diet that rich in animal products. Fruits and vegetables contain less fat and more fiber than compared to animal products.
2. Watch how much fat you consume. You should eat less than 30 grams of fat each day, which means no more hamburgers and french fries at McDonald’s – not if you are trying to stay healthy. And no more than 10% of your calories should come from saturated fat. You should also avoid the type of fat that is found in shortening, margarine, and many cookies, crackers, snack foods, fried foods, pastries, and other baked goods.
3. Eat different types of proteins, such as fish or lamb, chicken, turkey bacon and even beans or lentils. You might even consider eating an omelet for dinner.
4. Make healthy choices. Try using non-fat milk, or soy milk, or almond milk instead of whole milk. Make the change gradually, and after a while you won’t even notice the difference. Don’t eat salt-cured, pickled or smoked foods. Practice portion control. You should limit your meat and poultry to six ounces per day. Bake or broil you food instead of frying it.
Try to eat lower-calorie foods. A lot of the non-fat snacks you see on the shelves at stores are very high in calories. Look for truly healthy snacks like peanuts, choose foods that are high in fiber and even consider organic foods, although these are a little more expensive.
Eating right does not necessarily have to cost more money. But it does take a little time and effort on our parts. And you thought exercise was hard.
April 4, 2018
Gun control is NOT the issue! Open your eyes.
Okay, let's take a very candid, no nonsense, matter-of-fact look at gun control - or, in the view of some people, the lack thereof. Frankly, the solution to this subject is blatantly linear. For most of my life, I was entirely against guns being within the home, especially my home, because the easiest way to avoid accidental injuries and deaths in the home was to simply not have guns in the home. Duh.
As a law abiding citizen, I was very comfortable with guns being primarily in the possession of the military, police, gun collectors or hobbiests, hunters or sportsmen and sportswomen, and yes, the occassional bad guy. Unfortunately, as a Black man, I've personally encountered too many times where White police officers have used their weapons to intentionally threaten law abiding Black people (including me). Plus, I also know of too many instances where White police officers have killed unarmed Black men. Statistically, the rate of serious crimes in the U.S. has been going down for the past twenty-five-(25) or more years, but the death of unarmed Black men and the incarceration rate of Black men continues to increase. Oh, you might erroneously think those crime-and-gun-infested Black neighborhoods require White police officers to take a heavy-handed approach to effectively police Black people, then consider the following list of the twenty deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history (c. 1950 onwards):
QUESTION 1: So, why do police constantly profile Black men, when the overwhelming majority of the deadliest mass shootings in the U.S. are caused by White men?
RESPONSE: Plain and simple, it's called racism.
Black people are "strategically" more likely than Whites to be gun homicide victims! According to some reports, there are more guns per resident in the United States, nearly 90 guns per 100 residents, than any other nation in the world. White men represent just a third of the U.S. population, but about 60 percent of adults with guns in America today are held by white men. Plus, while Blacks are significantly more likely than Whites to be gun homicide victims, Blacks are only about half as likely as Whites to have a firearm in their home (41% vs. 19%). Hispanics are less likely than Blacks to be gun homicide victims and half as likely as Whites to have a gun at home (20%). Source: American Trends Panel, April 29-May 27, 2014, Pew Research Center.
Equally important, given that a typical Black household has significantly less wealth ($5,677 assets minus debts) than a typical White household ($113,149 assets minus debts), the clear majority of Black people don't have the economic might to purchase or acquire anywhere as many guns as White people. In an effort to reduce or eliminate the illegal use and acquisition of firearms, common sense dictates law enforcement (which is White-owned and controlled) should direct their focus at persons [predominately White people] who have both the financial means (wealth) and opportunity (ownership of and access to companies, shipping and transportation outlets, etc.) to acquire firearms, which is clearly atypical of and well beyond the resources of the majority of Black people. Most importantly, since Black people don't own any of the companies that manufacture firearms or the ships, trains, and planes that distribute firearms, where and how do Black people get guns? Ultimately, all guns are placed into play by White people, of course (duh!).
QUESTION 2: Given all of the resources, technology, and "privilege" to do whatever they want and whenever they want, do YOU really, really believe White people in law enforcement and the judiciary are too dumb, too stupid, and too inept to find out who is selling guns to Black people? Well??
RESPONSE: White people are not stupid. That's right, White people are not too dumb, too stupid, or too inept to find out who is selling guns to Black people, because White people know, ultimately, "they" are selling guns to Black people!
As reported by Politifact.com, although Newsweek and Mother Jones found that non-Hispanic White men have been responsible for 54 percent of mass shootings since August 1982, and another tally with a longer timeline and a different definition of mass shooting, found non-Hispanic White men make up 63 percent of these attacks, clearly under both definitions and datasets, White men have committed more mass shootings than any other ethnicity group.
However, not all White men are bad or evil, and given that the overwhelming majority of men (and women) are simply good and decent folks, such is also true of White men. So, any generic statement asserting the evil of White men or any gender or race is blatantly wrong, stupid, and is extremely counterproductive. Please read the previous two sentences again!
So, just because the clear majority of the most atrocious, most heinous crimes, murders and loss of human life have been directly caused by White men...like these guys pictured below . . . it doesn't mean that all White men are atrocious and heinous. However, isn't it better to be safe than sorry?
QUESTION 3: How come the overwhelming majority of school shootings in the U.S. occur at White schools and the perpetrators immediately responsible are overwhelmingly White men?
RESPONSE: Mass shootings at Blacks schools or in Black neighborhoods is highly unlikely because the so-called criminal element or gangs in these areas would work outside of police protocol and immediately seek vengenance. When someone kills a gang member or a friend of a gang member, face it, from the Mafia (Italian) to the Yakuza (Japanese), to M-13 (Latino), that's what gangs do - maintain and enforce organizational control (vertical and horizontal) over their territory. Note: Gangs have guns.
CONCLUSION: Predominately White suburban schools are extremely soft targets, not immediately protected by police or the imminent threat of gang retribution.
QUESTION 4: If mass shootings are so deplorable, why do print and broadcast media constantly publicize, promote, market, advertise, and glorify such events and the perpetrators?
ANSWER:Just like "reality television," it's not news, it's entertainment. For the news media, mass shootings are NOT deplorable, and "sensational events of human tragedy" are intentionally used as a catalyst to increase ratings and advertising revenue. It's illegal to falsely yell, "Fire" in a crowded movie theater, but it's perfectly okay to promote a "state of public danger" by constantly saturating print and broadcast media with heinous criminal acts of mass murder and violence. So, why is it illegal to falsely yell, "Fire" in a crowded movie theater, but it's perfectly okay to promote a "state of public danger" by constantly saturating print and broadcast media with heinous criminal acts of mass murder and violence?
RECOMMENDATION: At the state and local level, laws could be passed to limit coverage of "heinous crimes" to no more than a sixty-(60) second news story (via local or national broadcast, cable, internet) compliant with the established journalistic standard of "who, what, where, when, why, and how." Likewise, print media (newspapers, magazines, etc.) would be limited to a one-by-one column inch print story compliant with the established journalistic standard of "who, what, where, when, why, and how." For those who want more information, data will be available by phone, email, fax, or web sites at local, state, federal or designated law enforcement agencies. In summary, the "right of the people" to know is not infringed, and the "freedom of the press" is not infringed. "GUN CONTROL" is not the issue; the issue is:
1. the failure of law enforcement to accurately track and target the demographic most likely to commit crime;
2. the failure of law enforcement to accurately track the illegal distribution of guns;
3. the failure of elected representatives to effectively manage and prevent print and broadcast media from directly encouraging people to commit specific criminal actions of their own.
QUESTION 5: Will the U.S. government repeal or modify the second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, that, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
Be a law abiding citizen.
Ultimately, it's your immediate responsibility to comply with all laws. The easiest way to avoid being involved in criminal activity is to avoid being involved in criminal activity. Don't go places where you don't belong. Look before leaping. Be aware of your surroundings. Use common sense. Duh.
Ultimately, it's your immediate responsibility to protect yourself and your family. You cannot count on others, including law enforcement, to do so. You can: learn martial arts; get alarms for your home, car, or business; purchase mace and other methods of protection; or if necessary, obtain a local, state issued, or (when available) national conceal carry permit to legally carry a firearm.
Don't buy a gun unless you thoroughly commit to learn how to use it correctly and legally.
Ultimately, it's your immediate responsibility to comply with all laws. The easiest way to avoid being involved in criminal activity is to avoid being involved in criminal activity. Don't be stupid or cocky because you have a gun. Most importantly, when people know you're serious about protecting yourself and your family - they KNOW you're not to be trifled with. Duh.
As validated by the data presented above, compel your elected representatives to:
As a law abiding citizen, YOUR right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
a. stop playing the "race" card;
Because . . . targeting Black men, when the overwhelming majority of mass shootings are done by White men is racist.
b. target or "profile" the right kind of perpetrators, especially those who illegally distribute guns;
Because . . . White people make and distribute guns throughout the U.S. (and the world), and the technology exists to accurately track this legal and illegal business activity - so, stop making excuses, just do it.
c. establish security protocols for schools that mirror the security protocols used for banks, some prisons (yes!), and secure military facilities; and
Because . . . banks are secure, prisons are secure, military facilities are secure, and schools can be made just as secure.
d. prohibit print and broadcast media from "sensationalizing and advertising human tragedy" as dramatic entertainment, and as a catalyst to increase ratings and advertising revenue.
Because . . . the First Amendment does not premit "dangerous speech" from mass media to promote a constant "state of public danger" by constantly saturating print and broadcast media with heinous criminal acts of mass murder and violence which only serves to harm the public by "advertising" the proliferation of such acts . . . "we'll be back with late breaking information on this horrendous mass murder after this message from Xanax. Don't go away, stay with us, we'll be right back."
Our Letters To The Editor Policy - The Crete News welcomes letters to the editor and guest opinions (of less than 350 words). None will be published, however, without the signatures and address of the writer(s). Letter must be received by Mondays at noon. The general purpose of a Letter to the Editor is to focus on topics of local interest with support or opposition, comment on current debate over governmental or community issues affecting the area, respond to recently published material or other letters in this newspaper, or attempt to correct a perceived error or misrepresentation. All material must contain the clearly written name, address and phone number of the person(s) submitting so verification can be made by the newspaper. Signatures for each person submitting must be included before it will be considered for publication. The newspaper reserves the right to edit and condense submissions according to the Associated Press Stylebook, or to reject and/or eliminate anything perceived to be libelous. Submissions can be mailed to The Crete News, P.O. Box 40, Crete, NE. 68333-0040, dropped of at 1201 Linden Ave., or e-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your cooperation. —The Publisher