LB 401 (1997)
June 4, 1997
SPEAKER WITHEM: LB 077 passes. Mr. Clerk LB 401.
CLERK: Mr. President, Senator Chambers would move to return the bill.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Senator Chambers.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Mr. Speaker and members of the Legislature, I think everybody knew we were not going to get out of here without me taking issue with a bill, and this is one about which I'm very serious in offering this motion. It is to strike the enacting clause. I have not been in favor of this bill or any version of it, even before it emerged from the bowels of the Revenue Committee. And I think with all of the pulling and tugging that has gone... I'm being serious ... that has gone on with reference to this bill, it's clear that there are accommodations being made. I don't think that the bill represents wise, prudent policy. And because of that...I'm going to tell them your name if you put those eyeglasses on. (laughter) It's one of those situations where I think we are formulating a policy on the basis of a bubble that can burst at
any moment. The Governor, from what I read in the paper, and the World-Herald which puts out the paper, the Chamber of Commerce which cuts many a caper, may as well carry it on out, all said that we should have a permanent income tax cut, that you'll draw all these rich people to Nebraska. They will leave Arizona, they will leave Florida, they will leave California, and they'll come to Nebraska because there's a 5 percent, or whatever percentage cut it is now, in the state income tax. There'll be so many of them coming here, there will be a boom in the building of mansions. There will be purchases of luxury cars beyond the wildest dreams of anybody on this floor or those who sell these vehicles. We'll have more money for the schools,, the roads and everything, just by making this a permanent income tax cut. That's ridiculous, but that's the spiel that they put forth. The only one that I can really exclude from this is Senator Brown because she, frankly, acknowledged that she represents a district where a lot of people live who will benefit measurably from this provision. You can't be more direct than that. That's what I appreciate even if I disagree, so she's out of this. I don't know why other people are bringing it. I know old Deacon Jones sitting over there doesn't come from a district where they have a whole lot of rich people. Senator Jones, I'd like to ask you a question because maybe what I said is being called into question. Could I ask you a question?
SPEAKER WITHEM: Senator Jones, would you be willing to respond?
SENATOR JONES: Yes, I will.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Senator Jones, do you come from a district which could be described as wealthy?
SENATOR JONES: Not now. (laughter) The cattle prices are down.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Will this...
SENATOR JONES: The cattle prices are down. That's the reason.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Will this income tax help your district?
SENATOR JONES: No.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: And I think, if I remember correctly to show that I do pay attention, the sales tax would have cut ... would have been of much greater benefit to the people in your district. Isn't that correct?
SENATOR JONES: That's right. And another thing, the insurance part of it will help my district.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Which part is that? Where they can be self-insured?
SENATOR JONES: The deductible.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: I mean, where they are self-employed?
SENATOR JONES: Yeah, the self-employed can deduct the premium.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: And they're rich enough to pay for their own insurance?
SENATOR JONES: They don't have much any more. A lot of them are dropping it.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: And that deduction or whatever is worth how much? A thousand dollars a year, is that what it was?
SENATOR JONES: Yes, It's a good thousand dollars. It's about $2,000 a year for health insurance.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: And people in your district can afford to pay $2,000 a year for health insurance?
SENATOR JONES: Not all of them.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Okay. Thank you, Senator Jones. Members of the Legislature, I had offered an amendment to limit this cut to one year. Senator "Wizard" Wickersham prevailed upon you all to leave it at two years. I had offered an amendment, and Senator Wickersham said he would look into this with me next year, to do something for married couples so that they do not pay a penalty
as far as the tax law for being in the holy state of matrimony, whereas those in the unholy state of shacking up do get a get a tax incentive to do that. But since I had offered that amendment late in the session, there was not any figure provided to show how much that would cause the treasury to lose, I agreed that that probably was something we ought not push real hard to get passed. But it's one of the things I believe we should have looked because when I looked at some of the faces of people around here, you all were in agony and turmoil, and I listened to almost everybody except Senator Brown stand on the floor and indicate how much they don't like this bill. They hate to do it. It was almost done as a penance, Senator Robak, but it got a huge number of votes, and I received one of my patented votes at that time. I don't know if anybody other than me voted against it. This is the last opportunity that anybody is going to have to express their mea culpas. I don't have to express that because I thought it was wrong in the beginning. I've seen nothing that makes it any more palatable now. We don't have to pass this bill. We don't have to pass it. And the thing that troubled me so much, and I really haven't gotten over it, my ... my spirit is still wounded, Senator Tyson. I saw my colleagues roll over in the most craven fashion to adopt amendments to this bill and move it to where it is now. If the legislators had stood up the way they felt like standing up, this bill would not be where it is now. It's never too late to stop, turn around, retrace your steps and go in the right direction. But whether there is the will and the strength to do it is another question. And that's the question I am putting this evening. Has the Legislature gained enough strength of character, Senator Cudaback, to vote the way we ought to vote? Well, Senator Cudaback is shaking his head, no. And one of the most firm body language messages I've seen from Senator Cudaback all session. So this motion probably is not going to be successful, but I wish we would think about what it is that we are doing. I know that this cut has been billed as a come-on to make businesses and rich people come here as I had indicated before, and to make those who are here stay here. But if all that Nebraska has to draw somebody is this income tax cut, those people, Senator Robak, must be coming from purgatory. That's the only place I can figure that Nebraska would be better than, if the only thing that draws them is an income tax cut. Oh, you have to say your indulgence is first. So this is...this is two
in one. If you agree to come to Nebraska for the income tax cut, that is the indulgence that brings you out of purgatory. But nobody, even Senator Wickersham, who masterfully handled this bill ... I have to give it to you, and I respect that and admire it. I don't think even Senator Wickersham can give a compelling reason as to why we ought to pass this bill, but I will listen as those who speak on this motion, if any choose to, to hear what they tell us. And if they don't, then I'm not quite through anyway.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Senator Will.
SENATOR WILL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, members of the body. I rise in opposition to the motion to return. I would simply reiterate the arguments that have been made in favor of the bill, that I and others have made that, in fact, we do have an economy at this point that can sustain an income tax cut of this type. The bill is, as I indicated in previous debate, not in the shape that I would like it, but I think that it is in a shape that is acceptable, that I certainly can support. I think we've done a lot of work on this bill, not only in the Revenue Committee, but also on the floor. We can afford this. it's something where we have revenue beyond what was expected, and that we can do a general income tax rate decrease in addition to the other elements of the bill that are personal exemption increase. And I think that we've come to a point where LB 401 is, as I said, not exactly what I would like, but it's something that I can certainly support. I can vote for it. I believe we can afford it. If down the line... it's just alike a spending increase. If down the line we find out that revenue in future years is not what we expect, we can come back and adjust it as a body, and I would fully expect that we would ... we do that, to fulfill our responsibility as representatives of the state. But for...at this point at least, I would fully support LB 401. 1 don't intend to speak long and I would urge the body to reject the motion to return, and simply to vote for LB 401. With that, I would end my remarks.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Thanks, Senator Will. Senator Wickersham.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Thank you, Mr. President, and I will also be brief, and certainly rise to oppose Senator Chambers' motion.
If you have seen tomorrow's agenda and you look at the status sheet, you can see the justification for LB 401. We do not need to collect over the next two years the revenues that we will let in the pockets of taxpayers in the state of Nebraska if we pass 401. There is no reason to take those dollars out of those pockets and put them in the state treasury. That's the justification. it's simple. It's direct. It may not be eloquent, but it's a fact. And for that reason, I will urge you to oppose Senator Chambers' motion and vote for 401.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Senator Robak.
SENATOR ROBAK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, members of the body. I really wish I could support Senator Chambers in this, because I really would, in my heart, think that that's the right thing to do. But if Senator Chambers is correct, the rich people are going to come to Nebraska if we pass this bill, and I think that's good, but in another way it's bad because some poor retirees will have to move. They're just going to have to leave this state because they can't get a cut in their income taxes. They can't because this body consistently... emphasis on consistently ... refuses to grant the same exemptions to certain retirees on their state income tax that it gives the other retirees that receive. Social Security benefits. So I probably will just have to vote for this anyway because if rich people do come to Nebraska, they'll bring in jobs. And if they bring in jobs, they'll move more money in the coffers and, thereby, enabling those tight-fisted members, Senator Wickersham, on the Revenue Committee that would somehow consider my amendment that I had on this bill the last time during the debate. So, Senator Wickersham did give a compelling reason why we should not strike the enacting clause and, also, rich people do spend money, so they'll just spend a lot of money and we'll get a lot of sales taxes, so our coffers will grow and grow, and someday the Revenue Committee will see the light and, hopefully, we can give the same exemptions to those people that do not get the exemptions, the same exemptions as the Social Security recipients do at this point in time. And with, I'd just like to have everybody keep that in their minds because I'm going to come back with it next year, and since all these rich people...I I wonder how long does it take to have rich people come in where it can really pay, the economy to improve so that we can get a
lot of money. Overnight? Oh, okay, then next year we'll have a new bill come in and we'll be fair and square with the economy and everybody will live happily ever after. Thank you.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Senator Chambers.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Mr. Speaker, members of the Legislature, I'd like to ask Senator Wickersham a question or two.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Senator Wickersham, will you respond?
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Senator Wickersham, I know that you're not a member of the Appropriations Committee, but you're aware of the programs and agencies that we funded when we passed the appropriations bills. Is that correct?
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Yes.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Would we have had enough money to fund those programs end give this tax cut? If those programs had all been funded that we agreed to in the appropriations bills that we passed, would there still have been enough money available to fund this tax cut?
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Yes.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Thank you, Sen ... oh, here's what I'm going to ask you. In view of the vetoes that were handed down, what is going to become of that money which will not be spent if we don't override those vetoes?
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: That will remain in the Cash Reserve.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: And how much would that make the Cash Reserve be worth, if you could estimate it? If you can't off the top of your head, because you may not remember how much was vetoed as I don't, in terms of state money ... well, eliminating the federal funds?
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Senator, my recollection is about $17 million in General Funds were vetoed.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: And that would go into...
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Or proposed...
SENATOR CHAMBERS: ... the Cash Reserve. Is that right?
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Ultimately, that's essentially what happens to the dollars because if we have receipts that are above estimated expenditures, that's where those dollars go. And those...
SENATOR CHAMBERS: But there's enough money, then, to fund... I mean to override those vetoes. The money would be there.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: No, Senator, there is not, because that money has not be transferred out of the Cash Reserve.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: So we can"'-, override those vetoes and have money to fund those things we agreed to fund when we pass the appropriations bills.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Senator, if the Legislature votes to override a veto, as you know, the budgets and the status that we show, even though it were required to have a balanced budget, everything in the budget is an estimate, both in terms of expenditure and in terms of receipts, and it's really quite impossible to have things come out to the penny. So if you're suggesting that a million or two, one way or the other, makes it somehow not work, that's not correct.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: No, what I'm saying, we could still vote to override those vetoes if we chose to, and this income tax cut could still take effect. Is that correct?
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: If all of... if the full $17 million in vetoes was overridden, the only responsible thing for us to do would be to take some additional action with respect to the Cash Reserve.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: And how would we do that?
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: You have to have a separate vote to bring
monies from the Cash Reserve to the General Fund.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: And...
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: At least that's my understanding of the process, and you're quite correct, I'm not a member of the Appropriations Committee so if someone wishes to correct me, I certainly wouldn't be... I hope I wouldn't be embarrassed by being corrected.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: That...well, I'm being corrected and I'm not embarrassed...
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Okay.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: ... at all. I feel that my knowledge is' increasing and it adds to me. By what instrumentality would we be able to take such a vote this session? Would we have to do it on a bill or we Just put up a motion and vote to do it?
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: I don't... frankly, I don't know that mechanism, Senator.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Nor do I. I'll ask Senator Wehrbein because I see him back there...
SPEAKER WITHEM: Senator Wehrbein.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: ... smiling like a Cheshire cat. Senator Wehrbein, have you followed the discussion that Senator Wickersham and I were having?
SENATOR WEHRBEIN: I'm frowning now. Yes.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Could you tell me what would happen if we were to override all of the...
SPEAKER WITHEM: One minute.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: ... that the Governor executed?
SENATOR WEHRBEIN: We would dig ourselves a fairly deep hole.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Where would the money come from to pay those amounts?
SENATOR WEHRBEIN: It ... well, we would ... we can't balance the budget and override all the vetoes at this point. We still have some unknowns out there yet, but...
SENATOR CHAMBERS: So, what would happen if we voted to override the vetoes, which we have the power to do, what happens?
SENATOR WEHRBEIN: I don't know the exact response to that, Senator Chambers. I have said many times myself that I am going home with a balanced budget as far as I'm concerned, with the 3 percent reserve or more. I think that's our responsibility as legislators. If we don't do it, I don't know the answer.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Thank you, Senator.
SENATOR WEHRBEIN: I suppose we come back and fix it. I don't know.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Thank you# Senator Wickersham... I meant ... well, Senator Wickersham and Senator Wehrbein. And because my time is about up, I won't... I'll just put my light on.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Your time is up, Senator Chambers, but you're recognized to speak again.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: I figured that I'd be the only one speaking. Thank you, Mr. President. I asked the question because I think there are things we make assumptions about and we really don't know the answers because the question has never been put, but that's what I want to do. I want us to think, as legislators, what all of our options are. And if we're not sure what they are, find out. That's why we can get kicked around so much. Knowledge is power. Knowledge is power. The handling of the money is the rawest power that a Legislature can have, or anybody else who holds the purse strings. I think it was Henry Kissenger who said that power is the greatest aphrodisiac in the world. I think he's the one who said that. I don't know what
he meant when it said it but, as I think about it, he has a point. But we allow ourselves to be rendered impotent, and we let everybody kick sand in our face. But in this case, we are the muscle-bound oaf, and the 97-pound weakling kicks sand in our face instead of the other way around because we not only allow it, Senator Cudaback, we invite it. We tell people, here I am, abuse me. And they say, well, I didn't know I was of that inclination, but you're such a tempting target, I think I will. And they slap us around. And we say, ooh, that sure feels good. That's the way the Legislature carries itself, and we don't have to be in that position. If we thought we were right when we passed those appropriations bill, we are not less right simply because the Governor vetoed portions of those bills. Eleven dollars, $50. That's to show contempt for the Legislature. We cannot understand the things that go to the core of the nature of a Legislature, but we can understand $11 from the Department of Agriculture, or $50 from the Crime Commission. But millions of dollars from the developmentally disabled, we can't cope with that. I know that I have not yet seen what will be presented to us by the Appropriations Committee for overrides, but I'm sure that I will believe that additional items should be added and attempts should be made. I don't know why we waited till this point to pass this income tax bill when that was supposed to be the hostage we held to make the Governor show us some respect. And you know what he told us? You're holding a hostage, I don't care about your hostage. I'll kill you and the hostage. Veto, veto, veto, take that. Eleven dollars, I'll show them what I think of them, $11 off here. Take that, Legislature. So they're all sitting around drinking ginger ale or whatever they drink, and somebody who has just passed through to empty the waste baskets and everybody's having such a good time and they say, $30. Somebody will say $50,...so this...
SPEAKER WITHEM: One minute.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: ... poor fellow thought it was an auction. He didn't have much in his pocket, so he said, $11. Governor said, good idea. Vetoed out $11 at the expense of the Legislature. And since he has so much fun with you all, I may as well, too, and this is fun. I see why he did it. It grows on you, it's addictive, and it's hard to let it go. And I know I'll have only one more chance to speak when I close, but I mean every
word that I'm saying even though I'm saying it in a light-hearted manner.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Senator Janssen.
SENATOR JANSSEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, members of the Legislature. You know, if we do... listening to this, if we do find ourselves, as Senator Wehrbein said, in a hole where we've got ... you know, we're scrambling for bucks, where are we going to go? A week ago, we talked about one of the fastest ways to gain revenue was by the sales tax. Do you suppose that's the place we're going to have to go, to the sales tax, because we're going to be stuck with an income tax cut for two years. So we're going to have to go to sales tax and you know who pays the sales tax. Everyone does. So I just want ... you had the opportunity a week to take care of this, I think, in the best fashion that we had available to us. We chose not to do that, and I can live with that. But when we are coming back, if everything works the way the forecasts say, we'll probably be fine. But there's no one can look in a crystal ball and Bay that's going to happen, no one. So with that, I just want to tell you that I...we could have taken care of the problem, but we chose not to. Senator Chambers, would you like the rest of my time?
SPEAKER WITHEM: About three and a half minutes, Senator.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Thank you, Senator Janssen. Members of the Legislature, I'm glad Senator Janssen touched on the sales tax because to show how we're not taken seriously, I read an editorial in the World-Herald which arrogantly said that nobody down here was serious about trying to cut the sales tax, that that was something that was just done, and those of us who supported that were not serious. They don't know. The editorialist and the rest of their ilk have so much contempt for us, and they are so sure that in their arrogance anybody with an ounce of brains would know the only thing that the Legislature can do that is responsible is to give a permanent income tax cut. And since anybody with an ounce of brains know that, and they give us credit for having at least an ounce of brains, they couldn't be serious about trying to cut the sales tax. I was very serious. I'd like to ask Senator Janssen a question.
SENATOR JANSSEN: Sure.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Senator Janssen, were you merely playing with us when you offered your amendment to cut the sales tax, or were you deadly serious.
SENATOR JANSSEN: I was deadly serious, contrary to what the World-Herald said this morning.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: It was insulting for them to suggest that those of us who were trying to get the sales tax were not serious, wouldn't you agree?
SENATOR JANSSEN: I would agree with that.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Thank you very much. I wonder if they think that those who were tinkering with this tax cut and brought it to the level where it is, rather than what the Governor wanted, are just playing also. They'd be more correct in saying that because this income tax thing was bounced around like a ping pong ball and even Senator Will just said again, he doesn't like the bill the way it is. Senator Robak said in her heart she knows that she shouldn't vote for this. And we know it, but I know what the vote is going to be. But in case I die tonight and some of you all go with me, what you ought to want is to have your last act be one that was an act of conscience because you don't know when your last breath is going to be taken. You'll often hear, Senator Robak, poor people say, I've got more time...
SPEAKER WITHEM: One minute.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: ... than I've got money. And people used to come in the barber shop and say that. So one old guy said it, and I said, "Man, I'm tired of hearing that. People always say it. Have you got a quarter?" He said, "Yeah." I said, "Let me see it." And he showed me the quarter. I said, "Now, that's your quarter and you'll have it as long as you want it, right?" Ile said, "That's right." I said, "Do you know that the next minute is promised to you?" He said, "Well, I guess not." I said, "Then don't go around here saying you got more time than
you got money. If you got a penny in your pocket, you know you've got that. You don't know how much time you have." I want you all to think about that. What is the last thing you'd want on your conscience when you check out of here? To me, it makes no difference because when I die, it's over. When you all die, you all going to be going to other places where there are a lot of terrors. Nothing should be so worrisome to us that we would pass a bill like this when we don't thing that we ought to. I wish one person would stand on the floor and tell me that he or she has no qualms whatsoever about passing this bill. It's the best thing...
SPEAKER WITHEM: Time, Senator.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: ... we can do at this point.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Senator Wesely.
SENATOR WESELY: Mr. Speaker, members, I ... my conscience is bothering me a great deal with this legislation. I've struggled with it, not really that much from the beginning but of late, as I've considered the politics and policy involved. The politics are apparent, and obviously it's good politics to vote for the bill. I think just as obviously, it's bad policy. So the struggle is what to go forward with and what to leave behind because you can't have both in this case. Senator Wickersham said look at the financial status sheet for tomorrow and see the reason why we can do this bill. And if you look at that, you'll find that we're about $7-plus million in the hole if everything goes across that's now pending and everything signed by the Governor. So even at the beginning we end up, according to what we've got now pending and what we've passed, a deficit figure below the reserve that we're required to have. And of course, there are things that could be done and it's not that far off and perhaps we'll be fine. Then you look four years into the future, and that's a change from what we've done in the past, but I think it's a good change, to look further into the future and you see a budget deficit that's $113 million. I don't think that's so easy to overcome. I think the very balance sheet that Senator Wickersham said we should look at to justify passing the bill is the very reason why we ought to be very concerned about 'passing the bill. Short term, we can get by; long term, it digs
us into a hole. To me, from the beginning, it seemed that the focus needed to be on property tax relief, adequately funding the loss that would be suffered by our schools and other subdivisions through 1114 tax limitations, making sure that we had adequate local services and funding and adequate property tax relief, to respond to the concerns the public has been expressing now for a number of years. To add on that an effort to cut the income taxes with the huge cut in property taxes we're working through, well, I think it's promising more than we can ... we can afford, that and trying to meet the legitimate budgetary needs of the state. One of the things that's on the block right now is deferred maintenance. One of the things that may get cut significantly is deferred maintenance. We have a couple hundred million dollars worth of putoff repair that's costing the state money, and we're going to make some very small steps forward on that this year, but we still have a huge, huge .deferred maintenance shortfall that ought to concern us. We have a shortfall in what we pay developmental disability workers in our communities. We have a shortfall in the mental health services that we provide. We're almost last in the country. Public health services, we're last in the country. We are not overfunding a lot of services that people need in this state, people that are deservingly in need in this state to respond to. In addition, the history lesson that we have on this issue is that I believe the years were '74, '79 and '89, we faced a similar budget surplus and, in each case, sent back tax relief. The siren called "tax relief" is pretty hard to resist. In '74 and 179, not only did we cut income taxes, we raised state aid. We've already raised state aid, it's already been signed by the Governor with LB 806. If we follow the lessons of history, those two years that we cut income taxes, raised state aid, we saw shortly thereafter a budget shortfall. We are already seeing, from the status sheet that's before us, a budget shortfall of significant portions, over $100 million, and yet we turn our eyes away from it and listen to the call that we've heard from the World-Herald, from the Chamber, from the Governor, all calling for an income tax cut. And I understand the reasons why. They're not wrong in terms of wanting to ask for that. With their interests and their perspective, it's exactly what they should do. But what's wrong is for us to not recognize the problem it puts us in down the road, and it's not even a problem for the next two years. It's a problem
four years from now, and four years is an awful long time in politics. But 1, -For one, rise, knowing exactly what the situation is going-to be as far as I'm concerned, and whether or not I go along with it or not, I'm not going to do it blindly. I'm going to suggest that, in time, not even four years from now... I think that the figure of two years from now is optimistic. I think the economy is going to turn a different way, and then you get a double hit. You have a revenue decrease and you have an expenditure increase to try and respond to a less successful economy. So I think our problems begin not four years from now. They begin within the next two years. And when it happens in time down the road, somebody will look back and wonder why in 1997 we did exactly what they did in '74 or 179 and '89 and ended up getting in trouble. And the reason is that you have...
SPEAKER WITHEM: One minute.
SENATOR WESELY: ... a short-term political gain and a long-term policy problem. And it's always easier to look to the short-term political gain and let the long-term problem take care of itself. And I may be one of those that goes along with exactly that perspective, but I'll do so with a heavy conscience and a sad heart, but at least I'm letting you know that I know that and realize that. Perhaps all of us do, but it shouldn't go unspoken on this floor as we consider the final passage of this bill that we ... we're headed down a road we'd headed down before, and we will be in trouble as a result, maybe sooner, maybe later, but at some point. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Senator Bromm.
SENATOR BROMM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you, Senator Chambers, for putting up the motion so we could have some time make some comments. I feel like I need to explain my vote, and this is a good opportunity to do that. When I came into the body five years ago, the compelling concern in my district, which still exists, was property tax, and I was hammered by my constituents, rightfully so, to do something about it. And not having the experience or skill that probably some have that have been here longer, I wasn't able to accomplish as much in that regard as I would like to have. We did do some things in
property tax, but I would remind you that, as far as I'm concerned, whether or not we've accomplished very much is yet to be determined. I think the jury is still out on that. I think we've provided some additional revenue for schools but other political subdivisions and small towns and other governmental units may have difficulties, may have to raise levies. The valuations are, obviously, being increased. I don't know how much property tax relief there's really going to be when the dust settles. And one of my priorities was to make sure that something happened on behalf of my district in that regard that was significant before we looked at any income tax cut or any other kind of tax cut. I'm also very disgruntled about some of the vetoes. I don't have it in my heart to give a tax cut when I can't take care of some serious mental health problems and some developmental disabled problems for which there is a waiting list, and I can go on down the line. There is some essential things that government is obligated, in my opinion, to do, and I want to make sure that we fulfill those obligations before we give a temporary tax cut. There's also nothing wrong with building a bit more of a cash reserve. We are in an economic boon in this state. No one can remember, history does not record a time when the economy was any better. That will not stay the same. That will ... that cannot stay the same. There will be downturns in the economy. We don't know when for sure, but it never hurts to have an extra bit of cash reserve, and I have no problem with building a bigger cash reserve. We don't have to go on a spending spree. As for this being something that will attract rich people to this state or to provide an economic incentive for companies to move here, this isn't going to do that. It isn't that significant, it isn't that permanent, it will not do that. I do appreciate the Revenue Committee's efforts and work, and I very much appreciate the fact that they did get this to a point of being temporary because we'd have an awful time getting the cut reduced if we didn't have a temporary cut. I would remind those that think that we need this for an economic incentive that whenever we've been asked, pretty much, to do something as an economic incentive, we've responded. I've been here long enough to remember the Micron bills and how we responded to what we thought was something we needed to do...
SPEAKER WITHEM: One minute.
SENATOR BROMM: ... to encourage economic growth and economic development. We have responded to those needs when we've been asked to, whether it be the Micron bills or Union Pacific or whatever. We have taken care of doing what we need to do to provide economic incentives, so we've been good stewards in that respect. I simply, when weighing those factors, cannot bring myself to vote for the income tax reduction, and then I'm sure that'll be subject to criticism, but I ... my conscience is clear.. I think it's the right thing to do. We're independent agents in this body. That is the best part of being here. We are free to do what we think is right, and we should all do that. And I hope to do that, and I will do that with this bill. And that's not to...
SPEAKER WITHEM: Time.
SENATOR BROMM: ... criticize the Revenue Committee. They've done a very good job in presenting a bill. Thank you.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Senator Tyson. Do I see five hands? I do. The question is, shall debate now cease? All of those in favor vote aye, opposed vote nay. The issue before the body is, shall debate now cease. All of those in favor vote aye, opposed vote nay. Record, Mr. Clerk.
CLERK: 25 ayes, 0 nays, to cease debate.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Senator Chambers, to close.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Mr. Speaker, Senator Tyson said he called the question because he didn't want me to have to drive home in the dark. I'm going to show Senator Tyson that I don't mind driving home in the dark, and when you think that you can stop me from talking, then you really don't achieve what you might have thought you achieved. I had no intent to carry this out indefinitely, but I think Senator Tyson mistakes me for the Legislature. And when the Governor slaps the Legislature, the Legislature rolls over and says, slap me again, Daddy. That's not the way I operate. If somebody slapped me, they got something coming back. So the point that I had in offering my motion to bracket... I mean to strike the enacting clause, was to
discuss the bill and put some things on the record. Senator Will even asked me how much I intended to do on this bill and I said, just to get some things into the record, but now it's reached a different plateau. And I take things personally which the Legislature does not, and I don't want ... and I hope the ladies forgive me... I don't want my manhood judged by that of any other male. Exempt me from those generalizations and know that you're dealing with somebody else, and I will do what I think is right and nobody is going to stop me from doing it, and I care not how anybody feels or what anybody says. On the floor of the Legislature, I will play by the rules and discuss it, and then if somebody thinks that they just can't tolerate me, then when I leave the floor of the Legislature, they can play by any rule they want to play by. It makes me no difference, but if you offer me a challenge, be ready to back it up. As we used to say in the street, I'm a small piece of leather but I'm well put together. You might get a banquet but I'll get a sandwich along the way. And I just want to make all that clear. If we're going to talk about it, I will talk. And now that that's out of the way, I'll get back to what I wanted to say about this bill. Senator Bromm gave his reasons why he cannot support the bill. Others may have reasons and they may want to keep those reasons to themselves, and there will be some who'll vote for the bill who don't support it. But what I want to do is make it as difficult as possible for people to vote this bad piece of legislation. The worst thing that we can do is to offer this temporary cut to the people and then come back and take it away. We have heard the sales tax justified on the basis of it being a painless tax. People don't think about it, they pay it in dribbles and drabbles . Well, in this instance, the amount of income tax that people are paying is an amount they're accustomed to paying. When you...
SPEAKER WITHEM: One minute, Senator.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: ... diminish it, when you give the tax cut, they may not notice it that much because for some people it won't be that much, but in the higher brackets, they will notice it. And then when you come back and you slap them with a tax increase, you think you were put under pressure to cut the tax? Wait and see what you will hear and experience when you have to raise the income tax as you surely must. I will withdraw that
motion to bracket... I meant to strike the enacting clause.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Motion is returned. Mr. Clerk, anything further?
CLERK: Senator Chambers would move to bracket the bill.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Senator Chambers, to open on your motion to bracket.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Thank you. And the date is some time probably beyond our termination date, but I know that this motion will not be adopted, so the date does not matter. Senator Janssen and I were talking about the insult that the World-Herald gave by suggesting that those of us who voted for a sales tax were playing. You have to understand that people outside this Chamber are not aware of the types of pressure that can be brought to bear against members. So if somebody supports a sales tax which would put them at cross purposes with what the Governor wants, that is not something that many of the members would do lightly. They were not playing. We knew what we were doing, we discussed it on the floor. We explained why, we talked about people on fixed incomes, we talked about how regressive the sales tax is. Nobody was up here cracking jokes, as I "semi-done" a few minutes ago, in making fun of the Legislature. So when we allow those kinds of insults to be heaped on the Legislature, and we don't react to them, we either live down to the stereotype or live up to the stereotype, whichever way you want to take it. Were I not a member of the Legislature, I wouldn't care what anybody said about it. But the way to make sure that people understand that the stereotype does not fit is to conduct yourself in a way that the stereotype does not apply. When I'm doing what I think is right, it doesn't make me too much difference what other people think. But when a general condemnation is lodged and I'm a part of the organization that is attached in that manner, I will separate myself from the group and make it clear that it does not apply to me. There are too many times that the Legislature has allowed things to happen which will hold us up to scorn because we accept anything that is heaped upon us, then we wonder why we get no respect. There are legislators who get phone calls from the Governor, from even the heads of agencies, which calls would
not dare be made if this Legislature functioned as it should. You would have the Governor quaking and shaking. He wouldn't dare hurl an insult of the types that he regularly does over here where we are. It might be good to observe the activities of other states, to read history about how those who have controlled the purse strings have influenced the course of a nation, of a nation's leaders. We have the money, we control the money. I had been hearing people say that we would wait until the end to deal with this income tax cut and that would give us a hostage and the Governor would not be so quick to do all the vetoing that he threatened to do. Were I the Governor, and I'm sure he doesn't need to hear this from me, others are telling him that, or he senses it because he is a shrewd politician; if they take what I put on them and they give me this income tax cut, I'm going to veto more than I intended to. And he ought to. He ought to. If there is a line somewhere beyond which we will not allow ourselves to be pushed, the sooner he pushes us past that line, the better it will be. And to give a quote that I haven't used in a long time, if only for once a flock of sheep could behave like a pride of lions, we would get some respect. But as long as we're going to be the doormat and everybody's rug, we're going to be walked on, and that doesn't have to happen. We could bring that to a halt before this session is over. We could send, since we're talking about messages a lot this session, we could send an unmistakable message and you would see a change in the way the Legislature is dealt with. We have the opportunity, we have the wherewithal. Some of these things that were vetoed, if we don't override, will put us in a position when we're questioned by our constituents or other people, where we'll either lie and say, I voted to override, or be rendered speechless. We know what we ought to do, and sometimes if there is an act that we don't want to own up to, then we ought not to place it. Anything that we would have to deny that we did, or be embarrassed that we did, we ought not to do it. When we run for reelection, we ought to keep in. mind when we're function in the Legislature the things we indicated to the public we've been doing. Then we don't have to hedge on the truth, we can bring out the documentation and show them what we did, but we know that what we do cannot withstand scrutiny, so we engage in the kind of things that you see during campaigns. We cannot tell the truth. Nobody is going to strike the Legislature dead if we don't pass this bill.
Nobody. But if this bill is passed, we still are in a position to recoup a shred of legislative dignity. We can show that when we put money into those programs that were vetoed, that we knew what we were doing, that we intended to do it, and we have a determination to carry it through to the end. And that's what I wish that we would think about, but whether we think about it tonight or not, there will be the opportunity to discuss these things again when time comes to attempt veto overrides. The way to get answers to questions is to pose the question. If we don't know what would happen when we do the right thing, let's do the right thing and let consequences take care of themselves. I'd rather do the right thing than the wrong thing, then you can tell everybody what you did. Who is going to condemn you if you vote to override a veto that took money from the developmentally disabled? Who is going to, in your constituency, say, you should not have done that, you should have taken that money from those people? No, the problem is that they'll ask, why did you let them him take the money? So you won't bring it up. We ought to think now while we can place these actions, what it is that would give us pride and what would put us in a position to tell our constituents honestly what it is that we've done. And I want to say all that because when times comes for the veto overrides, it may not be appropriate to say it then. Maybe I'll be trying to finesse and cajole people and sweet talk them into doing the right thing, because you use any means you can to accomplish a goal. But tonight all I want to do is make it crystal clear that I'm opposed to this bill.
SPEAKER WITHEM: One minute.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: I think it is wrong for us to pass it. And I'm going to leave that motion up there for a time in case anybody wants to say anything.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Senator Wickersham, to speak.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Thank you, Mr. President, and I'll be brief. I, obviously, oppose Senator Chambers' bracket motion. I do appreciate the opportunity that we've had this evening to discuss once again the reasons why we're either supporting this bill or we're opposed to this bill with Senator Chambers are... is. And of course, as Senator Chambers points out, we're
all entitled to do that. In fact, that's the only thing that makes this body work, is if we are able to express our opinions. But I do hope that Senator Chambers' view does not prevail this evening and that we do reject his motion to bracket the bill and that, ultimately, we do vote to send LB 401 to the Governor for his signature. As I've indicated before, I think it is responsible. It provides for a mechanism to leave dollars in the pockets of our friends and our neighbors and constituents, dollars that, in my view as I've indicated before, we do not need to collect for the state treasury. We have allowed those dollars to be kept in the pockets of self-employed individuals. We have allowed those dollars to be kept in the pockets of families, and we have allowed those dollars to be kept in the pockets of anyone who might pay income taxes in general. We have made as balanced and as thoughtful approach as we could to this issue, and I will just continue to ask for your support in opposition to Senator Chambers' bracket motion and eventual advancement of the bill.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Senator Janssen.
SENATOR JANSSEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, members of the Legislature. Ten days ago, I was visiting with one of my predecessors here in the Legislature and asking him his opinion on the proposed income tax cut. And he said, oh, my, don't let that happen because I remember too well not that many years ago when we clamored to try to find some extra dollars. He said we were cutting from agencies a few dollars at a time, to try to keep afloat. And he said that's much, much worse than not allowing an income tax cut. He said, you have to be fiscally responsible, you can't believe in assumptions of what's going to happen. So I...and I don't want to keep talking about the developmentally disabled, but I want to tell you what happened Monday. There were people, developmentally disabled people, that would call my office and say, Senator, please, please don't let them cut. Please vote to override the cuts in the developmentally disabled. So, you know, I, in listening to those poor people try to get across to you what their feelings are, I certainly won't do that. I'll vote to override that. I always have. The five years I've been here, it seems as though they are always ... they're always on that chopping block, and I'm getting a little bit tired of it. I'd like to give the rest of
my time to Senator Chambers if he would like to have it.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Mr. Speaker and members of the Legislature, if I didn't care about the Legislature as an institution, I wouldn't say a lot of the things that I say. Each one of us as an individual can be picked off, and that's not too consequential to me because that happens based on what we do as individuals, and we should be able to justify what we did or take the consequences. But we are not attacked as individuals. The Legislature as an institution is attacked and disregarded. We're the keepers of the Legislature. We chose to be here. We ran for the office. Some people spent what I consider to be obscene amounts of money so some people really wanted to be here. When people run for election, they try to put the best spin on everything they did and everything they didn't do, and sometimes they even misrepresent what the person is or has done against whom they are running, or who's running against them. So people are here because they really want to be. Nobody was shanghied. There is nobody out there with a gun saying if you don't stay in that Legislature, I'm going to blow your brains out or, in some cases, shoot you in the head, and those two things are not the same necessarily. When we choose to be here, we should want the organization of which we're a part to command the respect that it's entitled to. And in this world of politics, the only thing that other politicians respect is the exercise...
SPEAKER WITHEM: One minute.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: ... of power. And to exercise power does not necessarily mean you do it in a way that is unjust and inappropriate. There is an appropriate time to impose consequences because you have the power to do so. And that imposition is not done just because you have the strength to do it, but it's the means to an end. There is a goal we're seeking to achieve, and when we allow people to continue to put obstacles in our path, it makes it difficult to do our job. So we should clear away those unnecessary obstacles that are put there by other branches of governments and heads of agencies, and go in as straight a line as we can. And if we have battles, let them be battles in here among us, but not battling among ourselves as we always do, then having to deal with an enemy
without. Keep the enemy from outside...
SPEAKER WITHEM: Time, Senator.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: ... away.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Senator Hilgert.
SENATOR HILGERT: I'll be brief, Mr. President, members. Senator Chambers, perhaps, has a point, but...and I'll probably get...I'm certainly get... I'll probably get some ridicule or whatever for what I'm about to say. Perhaps the income tax isn't the right thing to do, but I don't think there's just right and wrong. I think there could have been better ways to cut taxes, at least from the perspective of someone who represents the 7th Legislative District in downtown and south Omaha. I don't think the income tax is a wrong way to cut taxes. I think there were perhaps more right ways, and I voted that way. I wasn't playing either, I knew that there was no chance of passage, but the Janssen amendment regarding the sales tax, I threw my vote. I didn't think that there was much chance of it passing, but I did want to make it clear that we should look at a sales tax cut at some point in time because, after all, who is Nebraska? The people of Nebraska are the developmentally disabled, there are aging. I mean, what message are we saying if we want to attract people to come to the state of Nebraska if we say, you... I hope your children are healthy. I hope your children are healthy because if they're developmentally disabled, we may not fund them adequately in the state of Nebraska. Great place to come. I hope you come here, I hope the CEOs come here, but do you want to grow old here, because we don't want to adequately fund Meals on Wheels for the department ... the area aging regions? I mean, who is Nebraska? Senator Chambers made a good point. I mean, I still support this ever since ... what was it ... LB 245 when we had seven votes to Bay hire a reinjured worker when the worker gets healthy. I got seven votes for that. I know how conservative this body is. This body is not going to cut sales taxes. This body is going to take our revenue surplus and use it to drastically reduce car taxes, and use a formula for state aid. Boy, wouldn't that have been popular? But I feel that it is somewhat responsible, I believe, that when we have this type of tax situation whether,
as one of my colleagues said, we may be just on the bubble of economic good times, to return some of that back. I think there was more, perhaps, right ways to do it, but this was the way that was open. This was the way that had the big guns behind it, that had the senators behind it, that had the committee behind it, that had the administration behind it, and I know I'll probably be somewhat criticized but that's why I'm supporting it. Is there better ways? I think perhaps there could have. Will I vote to override the vetoes on the developmentally disabled? Yes. I'm not sure if there's going to be an effort to override the veto of the $1.1 million out of the $1.8 (million) for the aging regions. But anyway, I support 401. We do need to give something back when we have this type of budget surplus. That is the responsible message. From my perspective, representing my district, I think there could have been more effective ways to do it, but this is the avenue that we had opened up and we needed to give some of this money back. That's why I was willing to prioritize it, and I think...
SPEAKER WITHEM: One minute.
SENATOR HILGERT: ...the body, being of a conservative makeup that it I is, think this was the only practical way that it could have been done. I learned that on LB 245 when they said early in the session, don't rehire an injured worker when that worker becomes healthy again. Thank you.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Senator Chambers.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Mr. Speaker and members of the Legislature, I'm glad that the discussion is taking the direction that it is and, as I stated earlier, even if this bill is passed, as it probably will be even though I think it shouldn't, I hope we keep in mind this vote when we come to those programs that were vetoed. I have said that there is a way to recoup a shred of our dignity by doing the right thing when we come to those veto overrides. If this bill were not passed, then...let me ask Senator Wickersham a question. Senator Wickersham, if this bill were not passed, how much problem would we have then if we were to override all the vetoes?
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Well, Senator, I'm not sure how you want to
characterize a problem. Do you mean would we appear to have enough state revenues to support all of that spending?
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Yes.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: We certainly would have, yes.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Thank you. We make choices every day, and we're making a choice this evening, and the choice is going to be one with which I disagree. I will make the right choice. There are others who have admitted, even if they vote for this bill, they know they're making a choice that is not the right one, but they have their reasons for it. What I'm trying to do is to tie what we do tonight when we make this choice with what we may do to somewhat mitigate the harm when we have to make other choices. Tonight is not the end. We still will have time in this session to do some things that are right and maybe, as Senator Hilgert said, this vote is not a matter of right and wrong. He didn't add in a moral sense. But some of those veto overrides are going to boil down to a question of right or wrong. Senator Maurstad sent a page to a bill, the cover sheet, that showed that he had offered a bill, he and Senator Hilgert, to help the developmentally disabled, and that is good. When Senator Sieck was here, and that was before maybe most of you were in the Legislature, he was very concerned about that issue, and I believe he had a very personal reason, but he was one who was able to relate things to the Legislature that many of us may not have had personal experience with. But if you think about these things and these issues, I don't know how many of us would number among our personal friends a person who is deaf, a person -who is blind, one who's developmentally disabled. I wonder if we see all of those individuals as full-fledged human beings, or do we feel uncomfortable, uneasy in their presence, and don't know what to say, don't know what to do, and blunder by saying and doing things that are totally inappropriate because we feel we don't know what to do. And the reason we don't know is because in this society, despite all the euphemisms, people with any kind of handicap which is detectable are treated as though there is something "wrong" with them. And that's not the case at all. We cannot correct society's attitudes by the money that...
SPEAKER WITHEM: One minute.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: ... we spend, but we can show where our values as the Legislature ought to be placed. I know that this bill is going to pass. How I wish that the vote would show that I made that statement prematurely, that I had underestimated the depth of my colleagues' compassion and understanding. But on these issues, I'm pretty good at sizing us up, so I think I'm going to get one of my patented votes on this motion, and I will take a vote on it. And what I wanted to do on that other one, if the question hadn't been called when I closed, I was going to ask that we return the bill, then you didn't have to vote for the motion to strike the enacting clause. And that would have been a vote to show how we really wished we could vote.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Time. Senator, you'd be recognized to close on your motion to bracket.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I only turned my light on one time because I'm not trying to use every opportunity I have to speak. But what I had hoped to do before I was slapped, figuratively speaking, was that if I couldn't get the votes to return the bill and then not have the amendment adopted and the bill would immediately then be returned to Final Reading and could be voted on anyway because it would not have been altered in any way, or just have enough people not voting to show how we would vote if we could, and the way that we think we should. Now it can't be done that way, and probably as many of you all as I perhaps have alienated, you will not accept the suggestion that I would make this time. I know that you cannot vote to bracket this bill, and I don't expect that to happen. But it would be good if there was one vote to bracket and that would be the only vote cast. I have to vote for my motion, but I know that will not happen. But this vote could be an indication of the recognition that this might be viewed as something that has to be done, the passing of this bill, that is, but it is not what is viewed as the best thing. Then when the bill is read or the title is read and the vote is cast, that is the one that will achieve what it is that the majority will feel is necessary to be done. So I'm going to take a vote and I will ask, Mr. Speaker, that we check in.
9678 . SPEAKER WITHEM: Senator Chambers has requested that members check in. We are on Final Reading. Please check in. Senator Coordsen, Senator Landis. Senator Coordsen. They all magically appear. We are voting on the Chambers motion to bracket LB 401. All of those in favor of the bracket motion vote aye, opposed vote nay. Have all of you who wish to vote voted? Record, Mr. Clerk.
CLERK: 3 ayes, 33 nays, Mr. President, on the motion to bracket.
SPEAKER WITHEM: The bill is not bracketed. Mr. Clerk, anything further?
CLERK: I have nothing further at this time, Mr. President.
SPEAKER WITHEM: The vote now is whether we should dispense with Final Reading of LB 401. All of those in favor vote aye, opposed vote nay. Record.
CLERK: 38 ayes, 1 nay, Mr. President, to dispense with Final Reading.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Final Reading is dispensed with. Mr. Clerk, please read the title.
CLERK: (Read title.)
SPEAKER WITHEM: All provisions of law relative to procedure having been complied with, the question is, shall LB 401 pass? All those in favor ... pardon me. Senator Chambers. Roll call vote has been requested. Mr. Clerk, please call the roll.
CLERK: (Roll call vote taken. See pages 2658-59 of the Legislative Journal.)
SPEAKER WITHEM: Mr. Clerk, I'd ask you not to record the vote until the full three minutes time period is passed. Mr. Clerk, will you please announce the vote.
CLERK: 38 ayes, 7 nays, Mr. President, on the final passage of LB 401.