The Unicameral’s Shaky Start — Comforting The Already Comfortable

Pete Ricketts and his followers in the legislature believe that rich people don’t have enough money and that the middle class and the poor have it too easy.

The Nebraska legislature convened earlier this month for its so-called “short session.” Meanwhile, covid-19 cases in Nebraska have soared to an all time high and over stressed hospitals across the state are rationing care. At the same time, the wait for a covid-19 test — if they’re available — is several hours.

Were Ricketts and his right wing allies considering legislation to mitigate the pandemic? No. They were debating tax cuts for the rich and cuts to programs that benefit working families. Talk about out of touch. You can’t make this stuff up.

Ricketts made it clear in his State of the State address that more income tax cuts for the rich and corporate tax cuts are among his highest priorities. (The pandemic wasn’t on his priority list.) In his speech, Ricketts proposed to reduce the top marginal rate to 5.84%, down from the present 6.84% for individuals and 7.25% for corporations.

Ricketts didn’t give us any plans as to how he would pay for this windfall for Nebraska’s most affluent citizens. This undeserved tax cut for the rich and corporations would blow a $179 million hole in the budget.

“The fact is the tax cuts the governor discussed today, including those on Social Security income, are heavily skewed toward the wealthy,” said Rebecca Firestone, executive director of OpenSky Policy Institute, which generally opposes such policies. “They would leave the state vulnerable to cuts to real economy builders like schools and health care when the federal dollars currently bolstering our economy stop flowing.”

Meanwhile, the GOP Senators in the legislature didn’t even wait until Ricketts’ address to begin pursuing their extreme and regressive agenda. Last week, the legislature voted to reduce the estate tax. The estate tax generates around $70 million per year and those revenues go to the state’s county governments. The counties will have to make up for this windfall for the scions of the wealthy by raising property taxes.

At about the same time, the unicameral advanced by a 32 to 10 bi-partisan vote a resolution in which Nebraska would join the call for a new Constitutional Convention. This is an especially radical and dangerous proposal since there would be no limits on a Constitutional Convention. The original Constitutional Convention in 1787 was supposed to merely amend the Articles of Confederation but the delegates instead wrote an entirely new (and better) constitution.

Unfortunately, the delegates to a modern Constitutional Convention wouldn’t be nearly as wise as our Founding Fathers. This proposal is being funded by billionaires who don’t pay taxes and don’t want to resume paying taxes. A new convention would require a balanced federal budget and place strict limits on federal spending.

What this would mean is that it would result in big cuts to safety net programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. A new convention would enact the agenda of the GOP billionaire donor class and the radical right. It would be a disaster for most Americans.

Oddly enough, Senators Anna Wishart and Elliot Bostar voted in favor of this extreme proposal. I would urge their constituents to contact them and strongly recommend that they oppose this dangerous proposal in the next two rounds of voting in the unicameral.

None of these ideas would convince young people to stay in Nebraska. Nebraska is currently suffering a serious brain drain of our best and brightest young people. According to a study from the University of Nebraska, Omaha, Nebraska ranked 10th worst in the country in out-migration of people twenty five and older with at least a bachelor’s degree from 2012 to 2016.

If anything, passage of these extreme proposals aimed at comforting the already comfortable would cause more young people to leave Nebraska. Young people aren’t going to stay in Nebraska if their employers and landlords get another tax cut.

The 2022 mid-term elections will be here before you know it. Already, four Trump/Ricketts clones are running for governor. We don’t have to settle for eight more years of failure. State Senator Carol Blood is the Democrat running for governor. Blood has won three elections in red-leaning Sarpy County. She can beat the GOP nominee in 2022.

“Don’t agonize; organize. No whining; just winning.” Nancy Pelosi. Now let’s get it done!

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I’m a trial lawyer, defender of democracy and a sports fan.

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Dennis Crawford

Dennis Crawford

I’m a trial lawyer, defender of democracy and a sports fan.

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