To: Members of the Nebraska Senate
From: Americans for Tax Reform
Re: Protecting Nebraska Taxpayers In 2021
On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and our supporters across Nebraska, I thank you for your public service in these challenging times and urge you to use the upcoming legislative session to enact policies that will help households and employers recover from the pandemic-driven downturn, while avoiding new burdens on struggling taxpayers. In addition, ATR urges you to protect citizen privacy and free speech, support pro-growth sports betting policies, and remove unnecessary licensing barriers for workers.
ATR strongly supports legislation that cuts the state inheritance tax. Nebraska has a punishing inheritance tax that can be imposed at a rate as high as 18%, which is the highest potential rate in the nation. If Nebraska lawmakers want to make the state more attractive to families and businesses, slashing or eliminating this tax is a great step.
Property taxes remain the top sticking point for Nebraskans. ATR urges legislators to once again avoid increasing tax burdens overall in an attempt to pay down local property tax burdens, that will then rise again over time.
The best property tax reform to pursue is Truth in Taxation. Initially enacted in Utah in 1985, it has proven to be a huge success. Truth in Taxation requires public hearings when a locality collects more revenue. It brought Utah’s 24th-highest property tax burden in the U.S. down to 43rd for primary residences.
High property taxes, that are not supported by local citizens, are a sign that accountability is lacking. While more transparency for local governments is great, Truth in Taxation demands accountability to taxpayers as well – the key to ensuring tax burdens are kept low through public oversight.
In addition to protecting Nebraska taxpayers from tax hikes, there are many opportunities to help the state’s workers, families, and businesses recover from the pandemic, and grow in the future.
COVID-19 Liability Protection
Among the most prudent actions you can take is to enact pandemic-related legal liability limits that protect Nebraska businesses from COVID-19 related lawsuits. Passage of such a reform will allow employers across the state to reopen with the peace of mind that they will not be targeted with frivolous, costly, and time-consuming lawsuits. Lawmakers in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and other states have already approved such legal liability limits for businesses. Nebraska businesses deserve the same protection.
It would be great if federal lawmakers end up approving pandemic-related liability protection, but I don’t recommend waiting on help from Washington.
A National Federation of Independent Business survey found that nearly 70% of small business owners are worried about a spike in liability claims. These concerns, while unfortunate, are well founded. Nebraska businesses and prospective claimants need clarity from state lawmakers that liability protection can provide. For these reasons, I urge you to enact COVID-19 legal liability protection for business owners.
Occupational Licensing Reform
Nebraska has been a leader on occupational licensing reform, but now many other states who followed that lead have surpassed the Cornhusker State. Legislators can keep Nebraska at the forefront of easing licensing burdens that kill jobs, and have nothing to do with protecting the public.
Universal License Recognition legislation, which has been enacted in seven states thus far, allows new residents who have an occupational license in their previous state that is unexpired and in good standing to immediately begin working in their new state of residence. This will make Nebraska a more attractive place for workers moving from other states, and people starting new professions.
Arizona was the first state to implement this reform, with Governor Doug Ducey enacting it in 2019, and Missouri became the most recent state to implement it on July 6, 2020. Representative Derek Grier, who sponsored this reform in Missouri, explains that it allows new workers to “plug in right away,” and makes it so they won’t “be hindered by the government so long as there are no health, safety, and wellness concerns.”
Legislation that allows universal licensing recognition for military spouses is also a welcome reform, though not as ambitious as broader recognition.
Protect Citizen Privacy & Free Association
In Congress, we are seeing an increase in efforts to undermine the right to free speech, and association, with aggressive, and often unconstitutional laws that expose private citizens’ personal information.
Too many on the left want to silence Americans through intimidation. These efforts represent a threat to the fabric of our nation. A Cato Institute poll released earlier this year found 62% of respondents don’t feel they can express opinions publicly, this included more than half of liberals.
Legislators can, and should, work to proactively protect free speech, freedom of association, and their constituents’ right to speak out and support causes they believe in by supporting the Personal Privacy Protection Act.
The bill rightfully protects the personal information of people who contribute to non-profit organizations, including charities, educational organizations, advocacy organizations, and trade associations. Around 70% of those surveyed by People United for Privacy support the right to privacy and security, and support private giving. Voters know what is at stake, and legislators have the opportunity to protect their rights this legislative session.
Sports Wagering: Bet on Low Taxes & Limited Regulation
Numerous states have legalized sports wagering, or are in the process of doing so. The winning formula for sports betting policy is proving to be low tax burdens, and appropriate but limited regulation that allows the market to provide consumers the best experience. Nebraska has every reason to get in the game with neighboring Iowa having legalized sports betting with a tax rate on bets tied with Nevada for lowest in the nation, 6.25%.
Government should be on the sidelines like a referee, not fixing the game by imposing counterproductive “integrity fees” or mandating what statistics provider operators use. Low tax rates have been a key factor in New Jersey meeting and exceeding revenue projections.
New Jersey just saw a record $996 million wagered legally in December, a record for a month for operators, and for state revenue. Opening the market to digital betting is proving to be a winning policy as well. Mobile betting accounted for around 80% of sports betting handle in New Jersey.
The Garden State serves as a useful example, as it was the first state to launch sports betting following the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision. New Jersey has moderate tax rates, and no rent-seeking regulations like an integrity fee or data mandate.
Now is an extremely challenging time to serve in state government and I thank you for your public service.
Grover G. Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform