CREATED Jan. 15, 2014
Lincoln, NE - Governor Dave Heineman renewed his push for tax relief in his State of the State address Wednesday. He said it is his top priority in this legislative session, which is his last year in office. Heineman said there is a surpluss of money in the state's checking and savings accounts. He wants to tap into the 1.2 billion dollar cash reserve to help reduce property taxes.
"The state does have control over property taxes," said Senator Steve Lathrop. "We can't impose those property taxes, but we can provide additional funding to state aid, which reduces property taxes."
Some senators said using that reserve is irresponsible.
"When you talk about paying for ongoing tax cuts with one time transfers from the cash reserve, it just does not add up," said Senator Danielle Conrad.
The governor did not outline any specific plans on how to cut taxes, or even how much. It is not the first time he has pushed for tax relief. In 2007, Heineman got a $425 million tax cut package passed. But Nebraska Watchdog's Denna Winter says this latest proposal could be a tough sell, because it takes away millions of dollars from the rainy day fund.
"It's an awful lot of money, and we're already having some lawmakers say they don't think there's a big enough cushion left," she said.
The governor also reiterated his administration's opposition to expanding Medicaid in Nebraska. And he called for a long-term study of the prison system. He promised short-term fixes to address the immediate overcrowding problem.
The Republican governor called on lawmakers to reform Nebraska's "good time" law for violent inmates. Lawmakers have promised major reforms this year to address overcrowding and to reform the system that allowed the release of Nikko Jenkins, who is accused of four Omaha-area slayings.