All readers should be aware of LB 377 introduced by Senator Pankonin (2). This bill will allow any government entity including airport authorities, schools, cities, villages, counties, etc to get in a contractual relationship with the federal government. The federal government could possibly guarantee bonds issued by the government entity. The second questionable activity is the language that would allow bonds to be paid back by any tax (with no limits). This would also allow a way to go around other tax laws on the books.
This to me is a very dangerous bill. First because we would allow each entity to contract with the government. What if the entity defaults on the bond. Would the fed take over the running of the locality? This probably would not happen. The language in the bill states that the bond will be paid back and that the local government entity can come up with what ever taxing mechanism they want to do it all while going around other tax laws such as the sales tax, and property tax.
This bill would allow a school who is already belt tightening to take on a massive capital project knowing that they will not have the funds in the future to pay for it through traditional taxing. The school under this bill could impose a sales tax or increase property taxes ABOVE the legal lid to pay the bond. This one bill could and will allow taxes to run up quickly.
The statement of intent of this bill says that this would allow government entities the ability to obtain lower rates and overall a better deal on the bonds, however they have to be in contract with the federal government. While the statement of intent says the bill is for housing and it’s intent would be for a guarantee of loans on housing, the bill is written in such a vague way that it will be misused.
Other language in the bill states that this bill is an emergency bill which I believe means it would take effect the day after the Governor passes it. This bill is scheduled for hearing on Feb 2, 2009 and is assigned to the banking committee.
This post is one of the most talked about of the weekend, suggesting that 46 out of 50 states could be in deep financial trouble in the next year or two. Is Nebraska at peril?
Certainly the discussions that I heard from the Governor and members of the Legislature last week suggested that there would be a lot of belt tightening going on. But I think that the post, perhaps, overly dramatizes the situation. Nebraska as a “rainy day”/reserve fund. There may be revenue shortfalls for a few years, but carefully monitoring the budget–cutting expenditures perhaps–ought to allow the state to weather the storm for a while.
Today’s Lincoln Journal Star discusses a few things related to the beginning of the session. Since the session begins in a little over an hour, and looks to be largely a pro-forma meeting to formally assign committees and elect officers, I thought I might just toss the Journal Star’s items out there for consideration. Obviously, during a “long session” (which whill go until early June), much more will be considered.
- Death Penalty Issues: The State Supreme Court declared the electric chair unconstitutional, leaving Nebraska with no means for implementing the Death Penalty. Will the legislature pass a Lethal Injection bill? The Journal Star seems to think so.
- Immigration Issues: Should the state implement a means of dealing with illegal immigration? Should it mandate that employers be responsible for verifying the legal status of employees (beyond, one assumes, the current requirements that employers already fulfill)? How does Nebraska deal with the impact of immigration on its communities?
- Children in Crisis Issues: Further brought to light after last year’s “Safe Haven” law–intended to be a way for allowing newborns to be dropped off at hospitals–turned sour and resulted in a number of older children being dropped off as a means for getting them psychological and other support.
- Budget Issues: The state currently has about a $590 million cash reserve. How fast is that going to get spent down? How will legislators deal with ever increasing demands for state funding, without spending that reserve? And is more spending of the reserve a good idea in economic hard times?
- Tax Issues: Almost no one likes taxes. Nebraska is–with the combination of property, income, sales, gas and other taxes–consistently one of the top 20 taxed states in the country, and has occasionally slipped into the top 10. We’re not likely to get tax cuts this year, with the uncertainty of the economy. The question is, can we avoid tax increases and still pay the bills.
- Crime Bills: Attorney General Bruning is promoting a package of crime-fighting bills which would especially target on-line predators. One bill would make is illegal for registered sex offenders to use social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. No indications on how, exactly, the state would enforce that.
We’ll be watching, and if you hear of things going on in the Legislature that you’d like us to dig into a bit more, be sure to leave us a comment.