Nebraska Legislature Resumes Session After Coronavirus Haitus

Nebraska lawmakers resume their 2020 session today, convening for the first time since March 25, the 43rd day of the 60-day session, when they passed an emergency coronavirus funding bill.

They face long days and late nights before the new Aug 13 adjournment date as they deal with property tax relief and business tax credits as well as how the coronavirus will affect the state budget.

Lawmakers are also expected to consider legislation further limiting abortion and imposing anti-bias training requirements for police, especially in the wake of this year’s high-profile police killings of Black citizens that led to Black Lives Matter protests nationwide.

Most lawmakers still want to lower property taxes and pass a new tax incentive program for businesses, but it doesn’t appear either can pass by itself because of their potential cost. Rural lawmakers are pushing for the property tax measure to ease pressure on farmers and ranchers while the business incentives are mostly of interest to Omaha and Lincoln senators.

The property tax measure would pump millions of state dollars into local school districts while putting new restrictions on how much those districts can generate through local property taxes. The business incentives bill would replace the state’s current program, set to expire at the end of this year

The property tax plan had gained momentum after the state economic forecasting advisory board updated its predictions in Feb to increase an expected surplus to $277-million, but the coronavirus slowdown and postponement of the income tax filing date resulted in the state finishing the fiscal year last month with just an $11-million dollar surplus.

Lawmakers will get a better idea of how much money they’ll have available on Thurs when the Forecasting Board meets to set new tax revenue projections. State Senator John Stinner of Gering, chairman of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee, says he’s “cautiously optimistic” from a revenue standpoint that they’ll be “in a workable situation.”