Biscuits and Gravy with a Side of Tax Reform

Income tax and property tax continue to be some of the primary concerns for Nebraska, as discussed at Tuesday’s annual legislative forum at the Bonfire Grill.

The breakfast table conversation was led by the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce & Industry-the largest state-wide business association based out of Lincoln. The state chamber’s top areas of focus include taxes, workforce, regulation, and job creation. Health care, banking, and education are also often involved in the approximately 300 bills the chamber is associated with, according to Joseph Young.

Area ranchers, business professionals, state senators, a representative from Congressman Smith’s office, and city officials all took part in the presentation and discussion on Tuesday morning.

Vice President of Public Affairs Jamie Karl broke down some of the numbers of the cornhusker state’s economic competitiveness: Individual income tax and property tax continue to be the primary weaknesses. According to a CNBC study, Nebraska has dropped in workforce and economy, but is ranked number five in education. According to Forbes, Nebraska is ranked number seven in terms of quality of life.

Karl, who has been on the legislative forum tour for the last 11 years, explained that even though the chamber aims to learn more about community concerns with taxes and other issues, there are also aspects to celebrate and reasons to be optimistic moving forward.

“We do this every year. This year we’ll hit about 27 communities across the state. We do it annually because it’s the one time of year we can get out. During the legislative session, we are tied up – we can’t get out like we should and want to. And so this gives us an opportunity to talk directly to business leaders. We get their input, we hear their challenges, their concerns, and at the same time we also hear what’s going right in the state because plenty is going right, we just don’t get that good news all the time and on a face-to-face venue, we do get that. We hear what’s going right and all the optimism that is out there,” Karl said.

A summary of the 2017 legislative session was presented in which LB203 (unemployment insurance reform), LB271 (state department of transportation), LB518 (workforce housing), and LB641 (bioscience grant matching program) were passed. Young and Karl told the packed Bonfire banquet room that the 2018 session-beginning in January-will focus on budget, workforce, economic growth incentives, and of course, tax reform.