ZW Legislative Weekly June 19, 2020
Friday, June 19, 2020
Phase 3 Starts Monday: Governor Pete Ricketts announced that, beginning June 22, 89 of Nebraska’s 93 counties will move to Phase 3 of reopening. This means event spaces can have more people in attendance, bars and restaurants can move to 100% capacity, and spectators can attend sporting events. All restrictions on elective surgeries will also be removed. While some states report much higher COVID case counts as reopening occurs, Nebraska’s numbers are holding very steady. Governor Ricketts also laid out Nebraska’s Phase 4 plans – all of the same limitations will be in place, but used as recommendations instead of mandates. No date has been set for when Nebraska will enter into Phase 4.
Throughout this coronavirus experience, Governor Ricketts has avoided mandating many of the hardline requirements that other states put in place, including a stay-at-home order. Following along those lines, Governor Ricketts has told Nebraska counties that they will not receive any of the $100 million in federal COVID funds for local governments if they have a mask-wearing requirement in place in courthouses or government offices. When asked about this policy by the Omaha World Herald
, Governor Ricketts’ spokesperson stated, “The governor encourages people to wear a mask, but does not believe that failure to wear a mask should be the basis for denying taxpayers’ services.”
May Receipts Bring Better News: The reopening process has also come with good financial news – May’s tax receipt numbers were better than expected, coming in only $10 million below the forecast amount. The previous two months’ receipts had been so far below the forecast amount, they made this $10 million dip look like a sunny report. The fuller picture of the impact of COVID-19 on tax receipts won’t be known until after July 15, which is the deadline for payment of state income taxes — a deadline pushed back from April 15 because of the virus. As of now, this is good budget news to have as we wait for the Nebraska Legislature to reconvene next month and put the finishing touches on attempts to pass both property tax relief and an updated business tax incentive package.
One Month Until Session Resumes:
Revenue Committee members, including Chairwoman Lou Ann Linehan and Education Chairman Mike Groene, appear poised to push for a “decoupling” of Nebraska’s tax code from the federal tax code, which would mean that income tax changes put in place by the federal CARES Act would not be available for Nebraska state taxpayers. This un-pairing of mainly increased tax exemptions is projected to cost Nebraska taxpayers $125.6 million in fiscal year 2020-21. In the two following years, the costs could be about $67 million in 2021-22, and $57 million in 2022-23. Supporters of this move say the $125 million could be better used
for property tax relief. Detractors can already be heard calling the move a “tax increase.”
Application Period for Small Business Stabilization Grant Opened This Week: The Small Business Stabilization Grant is a grant (expected to be $12,000) for Nebraska businesses with 5 to 49 employees. The application period began Monday and ends on June 26. The funding will be dispersed on a first-come, first-served basis. More information is available on the DED getnebraskagrowing.nebraska.gov website.
I (Katie) sign off on this week’s update from the passenger seat as our family travels (safely) across Nebraska on Interstate 80. The report from across the state: truck and camper traffic is heavy; gas stations and restaurant parking lots look full, and wi-fi and cell phone access is strong. The phased-return-to-recovery appears to be working well.
Cheers and well wishes,
Katie and Michelle