Expanded Exemption For Military Retirement Benefits Advances

LINCOLN – It was a lovefest for veterans Monday at the Capitol in Lincoln as the Unicameral gave unanimous first-round approval to a bill exempting half of a military retiree’s benefit from Nebraska state taxes.

Current Nebraska law does grant partial tax exemption with two options, but both are well under the 50% in LB 1153 – introduced last session by 43rd District Senator and retired colonel Tom Brewer on behalf of Governor Pete Ricketts. As amended, it takes effect next year.

Veterans and their families filled the galleries and the 3 retired veterans who are in the legislature led the floor debate.

Brewer said most of those who retire from the military after serving at Omaha’s Offutt Air Force Base move to other states that offer more generous tax benefits.

Brewer said LB153 would entice more of those veterans, many of whom go on to start second careers, to stay in Nebraska and contribute to the state’s economy. He sees it as both a matter of fairness and good economic planning.

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Brewer said it would also would help persuade the U.S. Air Force to maintain its facilities at Offutt when it makes basing decisions.

Fellow veteran and Senator Bruce Bostelman of Brainerd, who proclaimed himself the youngest of the Unicameral’s veterans, told his colleagues that increasing the tax exemption on military retirement benefits would bring the state far more in return that it would pay out.

Senator Tim Gragert of Creighton joined his two fellow veterans in making it clear he supported the bill for other veterans and the state, not for himself. Gragert said he would donate his modest “windfall” to St Jude’s Childrens Hospital with Brewer and Bostelman making similar donation pledges

The Legislative Fiscal Office estimates that, with a 2021 effective date, the exclusion would reduce state income tax revenue by approximately $4.9 million dollars the first year, and by $12.6, $13.3, and $14-million over the following 3 years.

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