Editorial Roundup: Nebraska

North Platte Telegraph. April 13, 2024.

Editorial: At least stop hiding key tax-relief tool

So what do we have left of the 2024 Legislature’s latest stab at lasting property tax relief?

We have a bill (Legislative Bill 388) that would finally pour state funds right into property owners’ bowls from a pot lawmakers have been filling for four years while making property owners find the ladle to get their share.

The revised bill’s proposed School Property Tax Credit Fund credit would create a second direct discount on property owners’ December tax bills. They won’t have to wait for income-tax time to get all their available tax relief. (A short-lived community college tax credit disappears next year.)

It’s literally the least senators could do. And it should have been done this way all along, as Telegraph editorials have said more than once.

Startling numbers of Nebraskans have passed up — or somehow don’t know about — the education income tax credits. Half or more of our metro-area neighbors didn’t claim the K-12 credit last year, senators said in floor debate.

One more time: Is it really property tax relief if the majority of Nebraska’s property owners don’t know it’s there?

If senators had just “frontloaded” these hundreds of millions into direct December discounts to start with, everyone would seen the intended property tax relief right away. We wouldn’t be writing this editorial, because the income tax credits would never have existed.

Because known tax relief is better than obscure tax relief, senators should pass LB 388 when they reconvene for Thursday’s last day of the 2024 session.

But let’s not forget that an earlier version of LB 388 would have done more to rebalance Nebraska’s “three-legged stool” of property, sales and income taxes.

The Telegraph analyzed that earlier version’s changes in an April 1 story. It also would have “frontloaded” the money behind the income tax credits. But it also would have greatly reduced gross property tax bills — the totals before any credits are applied — by sending those frontloaded funds directly to schools and doubling per-student “foundation aid” restored only last year.

From our analysis, most Nebraskans, but not necessarily all, would have come out ahead whether they claimed the K-12 income tax credits or not.

But that first take on LB 388 required a more substantial shift of property tax burdens to sales taxes to pull it off. Each major type of tax has powerful enemies: ag producers (and homeowners) against property taxes, businesses against income taxes, advocates for lower-income people against sales taxes.

Thus just enough senators once again balked at advancing LB 388’s original plan. We’ll see if the same happens Thursday.

No wonder some rural Nebraskans are enthralled by the reckless notion that blowing up the whole stool in favor of consumption taxes — doled out from Lincoln! — would somehow leave rural and urban Nebraskans better off.

We’ll say more about that another time. But there’s no doubt that years and years of half-measures on property taxes somehow never work out as planned.

Like playing hide-and-seek with a substantial pot of property tax relief.


McCook Gazette. April 9, 2024.

Editorial: Heed the call for caution this year in road work zones

Nebraska roads are the veins through which our state pulses with life and progress. But as spring blooms and summer beckons, so too does the increased activity in our construction zones, which sadly have become hazardous corridors for many drivers. A recent analysis by LendingTree reveals a stark reality: Nebraska ranks second in the nation for deadly crashes occurring in work zones. This is not a title we should wear with pride; it’s a sobering call to action.

The statistics are troubling. Fatal work zone crashes across the nation have surged by a staggering 57.1% between 2012 and 2021. While this alarming trend affects every region, the west and the south have seen the highest spikes, with increases of 76.9% and 72.1% respectively. These are not just numbers on a page; they represent lives shattered, families torn apart, and communities left grieving.

In our own backyard, Nebraska grapples with its share of this grim reality. The Nebraska Department of Transportation has taken steps to address the issue by enforcing reduced speed limits in work zones. Yet, despite these measures, rear-end collisions continue to plague these areas. This underscores a crucial point: it’s not just about obeying speed limits; it’s about exercising caution and vigilance.

The report reveals that large trucks are involved in nearly 3 out of 10 deadly crashes in work zones. These statistics highlight the need for heightened awareness and responsibility, not just among individual drivers, but also within the commercial transportation sector. Everyone on the road bears a collective responsibility for safety.

The time for complacency is over. We cannot afford to shrug off these statistics as mere inevitabilities of modern life. Every death on our roads is preventable, and every life lost leaves a void that can never be filled. As we embark on the spring and summer seasons, let us make a collective commitment to prioritize safety in work zones.

To our fellow Nebraskans behind the wheel: put down your phones, eliminate distractions, and focus solely on the task at hand. Remember that a split-second distraction can have irreversible consequences. To the commercial drivers navigating our roads: exercise caution, adhere to speed limits, and be vigilant of your surroundings. Your diligence can mean the difference between life and death.

Ultimately, addressing the scourge of work zone crashes demands a multi-faceted approach. It requires enhanced enforcement, public awareness campaigns, and investments in infrastructure and technology. But perhaps most importantly, it requires a cultural shift—a collective acknowledgment that every life lost on our roads is one too many.

Our roads should be conduits of progress, not scenes of sorrow. Together, let’s make safety our top priority and ensure that every journey on Nebraska’s highways ends safely at its destination.


Lincoln Journal Star. April 13, 2024.

Editorial: Legislature set up for a big last day of session

Beyond a few attempts to override gubernatorial vetoes, the final day of any legislative session is most often largely ceremonial, an opportunity to take account of the Legislature’s accomplishments and, in even-numbered years, bid farewell to departing senators.

This year, however, the Legislature will have to take action on two controversial, highly consequential bills that were pushed through to final reading last week.

The most recent of the contentious measures to get second-round approval after substantial changes aimed to get it passed is LB388, the remnants of Gov. Jim Pillen’s plan that was designed to cut property taxes by 40% by raising the sales tax by as much as 2 cents.

The sales tax increase was stripped out of the bill, which would now replace existing property tax relief programs with new property tax credits. But it still contains widely opposed hard caps on local government taxation and spending, which, in other states, have proven to be ineffective and highly damaging to public schools and government services.

Pillen is considering calling a special session of the Legislature to address the tax issues contained in his original version of the bill. If that session is going to happen this summer, there is no need to act on LB388 on Thursday.

Speaking of special sessions, Pillen might bring back the Legislature, if the 33 votes to overcome a filibuster can be wrangled beforehand, to revert Nebraska to a winner-take-all electoral vote system, a change called for by Donald Trump in early April that senators roundly rejected last week.

That change, for which the only argument beyond Trump’s desire to pick up the 2nd District electoral vote is that “everybody does it,” would hit Nebraskans at the ballot box, literally diminishing the power of the voters, regardless of party, in presidential elections.

And, with a near-certainty of a Republican statewide win, it would remove any effort by campaigns to reach the state’s voters, by candidate and surrogate visits or television advertising.

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan’s LB1402, which would direct $10 million in state funds to private schools for scholarships, the second important measure to be considered Thursday, also would deprive Nebraskans of their voices at the ballot box.

The plan, if approved, is explicitly designed to take away the power of the vote as it would negate the referendum, already on the ballot, to repeal Linehan’s previous attempt to send public money to private schools via scholarship tax credits.

More than 117,000 voters signed the petitions to get the repeal on the ballot — for comparative purposes, that’s about one-fifth the number of voters in the 2022 general election. That number of signatures then is a strong indicator of the appeal of the repeal, hence the last minute effort to short circuit the vote, which sends a loud message to Nebraska’s “second house,” the public.

It’s possible that neither Pillen’s tax plan nor Linehan’s private school funding measure will pass on Thursday. That, however unlikely, would be an ideal outcome for voters and state tax policy on what will be a very consequential final day of the 2024 Legislature.