Ricketts And The Nebraska GOP Supports Socialism For The Rich
Nebraska is one of the most generous states when it comes to corporate welfare. According to a 2012 study by the NY Times, Nebraska hands out $1.39 billion per year on so-called corporate incentive programs at all levels of government. According to the Open Sky Policy Institute, over the last 30 years, the state government has doled out corporate tax breaks worth over $4 billion.
Open Sky Executive Director Renee Fry questioned what could have been done with that $4 billion in corporate welfare: “I would be really curious as to where we would be as a state, if we had invested that kind of money in early childhood or higher education providing free community college. I think the potential is endless and I think we would be having a different conversation as a state.” According to a study from the Upjohn Institute, most of the corporations grabbing taxpayer funded subsidies would have done their projects in the absence of the so-called incentives. Fry contended: “We are spending money on projects, 75% of which or more would have happened anyway.”
The corporate welfare program was initially passed in 1987 after Enron left Omaha and as Conagra was threatening to leave Omaha. The legislation was mordantly termed the “Conagra” bill by its opponents. Unfortunately, the centerpiece of the Nebraska GOP’s economic development policy has turned out to be a failure. Conagra, Cabela’s and now T.D. Ameritrade have either left the state or will soon be leaving Nebraska. Taxpayers lost $160 million on Conagra and $28 million on T.D. Ameritrade.
Proponents of Nebraska’s failed corporate welfare program argue that treating the exorbitant cost of this program as an expense is wrong. The reality is that these corporate subsidies aren’t free — everybody else in Nebraska is paying for them in the form of higher property taxes, reduced government services and higher tuition. These aren’t tax cuts — it’s a tax shift from Nebraska’s most lucrative corporations to working families and retirees.
Kiplinger Magazine recently named Nebraska as the least tax friendly state in the country for retirees. According to its survey: “ Nebraska is the least tax friendly state in the nation for retirees, primarily because of steep income and property taxes.” In other words, Ricketts and his allies aren’t only chasing young people out of the state with their low wage and LGBT hostile policies — they are also encouraging our senior citizens to leave Nebraska.
We are in this mess due to a failure of leadership and vision by Pete Ricketts and his allies in the legislature. Due to their adherence to a failed no new taxes orthodoxy, the Nebraska tax code is larded with both corporate tax breaks and special interest sales tax exemptions. They simply can’t muster up the courage and the will to revisit these ineffective tax policies.
On top of that, Ricketts and his conservative Christian allies support the twenty first century equivalent of Prohibition. The billionaire governor and his coalition oppose legalizing both marijuana and gambling. This refusal to recognize reality has caused Nebraska to lose millions of dollars in revenues on an annual basis.
Next year, Nebraska voters will have a chance to weigh in on these failed policies. Medical marijuana and gambling will both be on the ballot. In addition, 25 state legislative seats will be up for grabs in 2020. What that means is that we have a big opportunity in the 2020 cycle.
I would recommend that you commit your time and/or money to good legislative candidates. Elections have consequences. Let’s take our state back from the money changers in the temple!