Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"The Fix Is In" On Unicameral's Tax Cut Plan

by Kyle Michaelis
I can't apologize enough to readers for being unable to focus on Nebraska's ongoing tax cut debate these last few weeks. The Revenue Committee advanced its plan to the full legislature on March 29th and the next day's headlines were so outrageously one-sided that I still haven't fully recovered from the shock.

The Omaha World-Herald read:
Tax Cut Plan Called Good Balance
A proposal advances that would set aside $100 million in 2007-08 to pay property taxes.
The Lincoln Journal-Star read:
Tax Cuts: Everyone Benefits
Governor offers support to proposal that provides more than $200 million in tax relief.
I can't compete with that. It's not journalism - it's advocacy. And, it's not a damn bit objective by any stretch of the imagination.

Right then and there, the state's two largest newspapers decided for the people of Nebraska that the Revenue Committee's plan was going to go through. For almost three weeks now, I've been meaning to dissect the Revenue Committee's proposal - acknowledging that it's nowhere near as hideous and appalling as Gov. Dave Heineman's original tax cut plan but that it's also nowhere near as beneficial or equitable as the headlines would let on.

Now that the debate has actually begun on the floor of the legislature, it's probably too late to really make any attempt to beat back all the hype and the one-sided coverage likely to carry the Revenue Committee's plan through the legislature.

Only yesterday did the Lincoln Journal-Star finally carry an article admitting "there are winners and losers with the plan." But, guess what - that admission came in an article entitled:
Tax Cut Package: A Bit For Everybody
Maybe it's not the journalists - just the copy editors - who are using the full force of the press to curry favor with Gov. Heineman and to prevent an honest assessment of the weaknesses of the current proposal.

And, what of "the losers" under this tax cut plan? Who will speak for them? Who has even acknowledged that they exist in the Nebraska media but as a throwaway line in a heap of spin? They are the unmarried. They are the working poor. They are anyone in the middle-class who owns their own home because they would see so much more benefit under alternative proposals (that, polling shows, people actually prefer).

I haven't spoken up for them these last three weeks. No one else has either. And, in the rush to go along and get along with a plan specifically crafted to please long as there is no critical analysis and no questions are asked, I doubt that anyone will be able to truly make a stand for the quiet majority of Nebraska voters who have been deliberately silenced and manipulated by the media and by the politicians in whom they place their trust.

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Anonymous TedK said...

Why did Sen. White's proposal to rebate $500 to each homeowner fail to gain support? According to his polling 84% of Nebraskans support this plan, but I believe it only got 13 votes. The beauty of this plan is its simplicity and progressivity. He is starting a group, Nebraska Leadership Project ( to promote a middle class agenda.

Anonymous queenb said...

the governor, i don't think, cared what kind of plan passed, as long as it cut taxes.
And personally, i don't think either plan, Sen. Whites or the Rev Committee's is a great plan for Nebraska.
Pressure got to them. But what is the problem, the need to hurry up and pass something so we can go back to the people in our districts and say "see, i did what i promised" or to make sound policy.
What i saw as the biggest problem of this years debate with the ugliness of the trust of the institution. IS the committee system faulty then, if a rejected proposal still makes it on the floor for debate, are we wasting time in committee or on the floor.
Who do we want to help. The 5,000 people that voted for Senator White or Nebraska as a whole.

I'm frustrated at the embarassment that was the debate yesterday. Who runs the legislature and who should. Partisan politics or a utilitarian vision for nebraska.

So give Ted Turner his 80 cents on $100...cap the pay out and re-direct it to the lower and middle class property owners whom want $500(only 84%...why don't 100% of people want $500 bucks...anybody wonder about that?)

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


I'm very excited by the Nebraska Leadership Project. But, honestly, I don't think that I could have voted for Sen. White's proposal because of its outright repeal of Nebraska's estate tax. I know that the people of Nebraska want property tax relief, but there are a lot of ways to go about it - each with their respective merit. None of these reasons, however, supports eliminating the estate tax, which is an entirely legitimate (perhaps even necessary) check on the cross-generational transfer of wealth.

Mrs. B, from beyond the grave-

I don't think Sen. White's offered Amendment should be taken as an assault on the entire Committee system. Committee's play an essential role in providing full hearings on issues and moving well-reasoned legislation to the floor. But, individual senators should have a means to work around an unreceptive committee - understanding that they face a higher hurdle with the full body without the relevant committee's approval.

Anonymous TedK said...

I didn't realize there was an estate tax repeal in there. If he's championing the middle class, why was that in there? I have no problem with raising the estate tax limit. Because of inflation, that's only fair. But it should never be eliminated unless it is replaced by a tax that hits the same people.


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