BROKEN BOW–District 36 State Senator Matt Williams made the rounds through Broken Bow on Thursday and said he was happy to be here now that the legislative session is over.
The Broken Bow Chamber of Commerce organized a variety of events on Thursday in which many state dignitaries attended such as Senator Williams, Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley, Jerad Reimers representing Congressman Adrian Smith, Josh Jelden representing Senator Deb Fischer, and Mrs. Nebraska Adair Moffet-Reese.
The day consisted of a tour of the Judicial Center, ribbon cuttings for Clang Financial and the Rustic Patch, and a meeting with families of former Broken Bow Care and Rehab residents who had to relocate to talk about the difficult and delicate issues surrounding long-term care and Medicaid.
KCNI/KBBN‘s Get Up and Go Breakfast Show also featured Senator Williams on Friday morning where he discussed the recent legislative session and the impressive growth of rural Nebraska areas.
“So many of our rural areas and rural communities in Nebraska seem to be on a path of decline. And I’m always pleased that for my legislative district we have a lot of communities that seem to be able to continue growing and show progress. And I tell people that doesn’t happen by accident, that happens by hard work of community leaders that are willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work and make things happen,” Senator Williams said.
The major state issues of property tax reform, school funding, and business incentives were of course addressed during the last legislative session, in which Senator Williams said progress was made . However, many other issues also moved forward.
According to the Gothenburg-based senator, 10 of his 11 proposed bills were passed and signed by Governor Pete Ricketts. LB 463 specifically addressed tax deeds and tax certificates and what the senator described as unfair, inequitable situations that needed attention. Other issues discussed included upgrading laws on the prescription drug problem and dealing with the overcrowding of the corrections system.
One of the major accomplishments and requirements of this 90-day legislative session included passing a budget, of which Senator Williams said he is very proud.
“This budget I was very proud of because it was the lowest increase that we have had in a state budget in modern-day history, increase of 2.9% and in that we were able to continue funding our education systems which are near and dear to me, both the K-12 level and state college and university system,” Senator Williams said.
The unicameral also increased Medicaid provider rates across the state, added dollars to problem solving courts, and moved forward with disaster relief and financing highway systems.
As for property taxes, an additional $51 million was added to the property tax relief fund bringing the total to $275 million each year. This addition was the largest percentage increase in this year’s budget, but still might not bring significant relief to some people.
Senator Williams said many mistakes were made by those introducing legislation but says those issues will be addressed this upcoming year.
“Any major change in public policy requires a lot of hard work and education, but it requires two things that I feel were somewhat lacking this year. One is very good negotiation skills coupled with trust and the process had some flaws in it this year,” Senator Williams said.
The district 36 senator described LB 289 as the “primary vehicle” to come out of the revenue committee which would have provided significant property tax relief, reducing property taxes by 20% but would have increased sales tax and eliminated nearly 30 different exceptions, something Governor Ricketts was stronlgy opposed to.
“LB 289 is on track to become the largest tax increase on working Nebraskans in the history of our state. It’s a transfer of half a billion dollars from family budgets for government spending. I am alarmed that Senators are even considering this, and I urge the Revenue Committee and the full Legislature to reject these tax increases,” Governor Ricketts said in a media release from April 17.
Senator Williams said sales tax affects low income people a lot harder than others and exemptions can be difficult to eliminate due to lobbying groups. Senator Williams supported the bill but in the end, LB 289 did not have enough votes. A somewhat revised version of the bill, LB 183, eliminated some of the portions but still had the sales tax component.
“Any increase in sales tax or removal of exemptions is not to the liking of the governor,” Williams said.
Senator Williams strongly believes in remaining competitive as a state in order to grow. LB 720 updated the Nebraska Advantage Act and added financial incentives for recruiting industries and helping existing ones expand.
At the end of his time visiting with KCNI/KBBN, Senator Williams expressed concerns of federal tariffs and the level of uncertainty they bring to the agriculture industry. He appreciates Nebraska’s unicameral legislative set-up, and looks forward to growing our state.
As the summer months continue, Senator Williams plans to continue traveling the district, spend time with his three grandchildren, attend ball games, and celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife Susan.