Albrecht Weekly Report

WAYNE – With the second session of the 107th Nebraska Legislature now moving into 12-hour days of floor debate, District 17 Senator Joni Albrecht provides her weekly update with a focus on some of the most important bills of the session.

According to a release from the office of Senator Albrecht, eight days of budget debates will be beginning soon as Senator Albrecht is hoping to see some significant tax relief legislation become law for the benefit of all Nebraskans.

Senator Albrecht focused on revenue forecast increase; education recovery act, vaccine mandates, reminder to claim your refundable income tax credit and a look ahead to a writing sweepstakes.

During the February 28 meeting at the State Capitol, the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board voted to increase revenue projections. The board provides an advisory forecast of general fund receipts used by the Legislature to craft the state’s budget. Revenue projections for the current fiscal year and FY2022-23 were raised based on anticipated increases across all tax receipt categories, including a projected $160 million increase in individual income tax receipts in FY2021-22 and a $200 million increase in individual income tax receipts in FY2022-23.

Total projected revenue receipts for FY2021-22 were raised to $5.72 billion, an increase of $370 million. Projected total revenue receipts for FY2022-23 were set at $5.96 billion, an increase of $405 million.

Senator Albrecht said,” the increased forecast can be very encouraging to all of us. Nebraska can possibly deliver a variety of tax relief that will return excess revenue back to the people with income tax relief and property tax relief.”

Earlier this month, Senator Albrecht introduced LB1240 which is part of the Governor’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This recommendation includes $30 million in fiscal year 2021-22 and an additional $30 million in fiscal year 2022-23 for a three-year temporary program to provide Family-Directed Education Recovery Accounts for low-income children and families. This three-year program will provide direct assistance to children in K-12 for the 2022-2025 school years. For each school year, up to $20 million will be allocated to parents for educational expenses to address learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Albrecht added, “the overarching purpose of these accounts is to put students most impacted by the pandemic back on the right path and avoid the long-term negative impacts that occur with significant learning losses. The pandemic’s impact on education has far-reaching negative ramifications.”

According to a July 21, 2021 report, students lost on average five months of math and four months of reading, which will lead to lower lifetime income of at least $49,000 and reduced annual economic growth of at least $128 billion.

“Deeply concerning is the fact that the students most affected by the crisis were already behind their peers before the pandemic. This temporary program will give parents resources to close these gaps, and it is available to eligible students whether they’re in a public, private, or home school. This temporary recovery bill is for Nebraska’s most vulnerable learners.”

Eligibility for Nebraska children will be determined if a child is eligible for the federal free lunch program, and attends grades K-12 in a public, non-public, or exempt school. A child can receive up to $2,000 of benefit per school year for educational services that include but are not limited to; private school tuition, tutoring, digital learning subscriptions, exempt school curriculum, and other K-12 educational services. This program does not authorize the purchasing of computing devices or equipment, as other federal funding has been made available to make these devices accessible to children covered in this program.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts signed LB 906e into law which allows Nebraskans to claim medical or religious exemption from coronavirus vaccination requirements in most workplaces. The bill has an emergency clause and took effect at 12:01 AM on March 1, 2022. The bill introduced by Senator Ben Hansen, passed on a vote of 37 yes, five no, five present not voting and two senators excused.

The law requires the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to develop a vaccine exemption form for Nebraska citizens who are employees of a private company. The new law allows employees to claim an exemption based on his or her strong moral, ethical, or philosophical beliefs or convictions. If the employer requires employees to be vaccinated, the employer must also allow for an employee to receive an exemption to vaccination. The employer may also require the employee to be periodically tested and wear or use personal protective equipment, at the employer’s expense.

Senator Albrecht mentioned, “this is the Nebraska answer to what is a much larger national debate about the President’s wrong-headed vaccine mandates. This federal one-size-fits-all approach has taken a sledgehammer to the liberty of Nebraskans to make an intensely personal decision according to their own convictions. I am very glad Senator Hansen got this bill passed. A lot of Nebraskans can now breathe a little easier knowing their individual liberty has been defended. And for those who need one, an exemption to mandatory vaccination is now possible in Nebraska.”

Taxpayers who pay property taxes to schools and file Nebraska income taxes are eligible to claim a refundable income tax credit on the amount of property taxes paid to schools. For tax year 2021, the credit equals 25.3% of property taxes paid to schools and applies to taxes paid between January 1 and December 31, 2021.

The credit applies to property taxes paid on real property (land, buildings, residences) excluding taxes levied for bond repayments and taxes levied because of voter-approved overrides of levy limits. The credit does not apply to taxes paid to schools on personal property like agricultural machinery and equipment or those paid on motor vehicles. To claim the credit, visit ndr-1107parcel.ne.gov/parcelldLookup.

For the 20th year, Nebraska State Treasurer John Murante and the Omaha Storm Chasers will be sponsoring the “Why I Want to Go to College” writing sweepstakes, with entries due Monday, April 4, 2022. Students are asked to reflect on the value of education and what they hope to achieve through higher education as entries are limited to 750 words.

More information about the writing sweepstakes is available on the Treasurer’s website at www.treasurer.nebraska.gov/csp/. Prizes will be awarded to 12 winners in seventh and eighth grades who will receive contributions to the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust (NEST) college savings accounts – including $2,000 for first place, $1,000 for second place and $500 for third place. Three winners will be chosen from each of Nebraska’s three Congressional districts.

Each Nebraska winner will receive four tickets to the May 22 Storm Chasers game at Werner Park in Papillion where they will be recognized during a brief ceremony.

If you have any comments or concerns, contact Senator Joni Albrecht at 402-471-2716 or email jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Senator Albrecht would like for her constituents to understand that with over 1,200 bills being heard over a 60-days period she is not able to personally respond to all of the emails and calls.

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