Opinion: Legislative pace on rise after final bill day passes
Taxation: A bill addressing sales tax on food was discussed at length but didn't make it out of committee. As it was introduced, it would have been a revenue neutral bill by adding 0.35 percent to other sales and services. How higher sales tax (such as the 5.5 percent state sales tax in Nebraska) on other goods and services would impact low-income people was not presented. The current program for sales-tax rebates for those that qualify was discussed and may need review. The consensus was the stable source of income the food sales tax provides is important to the budget, since discretionary purchases would tend to come and go with the economy. North Dakota and Nebraska were used as comparisons; however, both states have income taxes, which tends to be more stable. North Dakota's sales tax numbers were skewed, probably as a result of the influx of people working in the oil industry. North Dakota showed increases of 15 percent and 20 percent through the 2008 and 2009 credit crisis.
Transportation: A bill was pitched as a way to add money for roads. It actually stripped the snowmobile budget of all revenue sources from license fees, excises taxes and gas tax resulting from fuel used by snowmobiles. It would have taken the tax from the gas boats use, also. The revenue from snowmobiles grooms the trails and has a huge draw from out-of-state as well as in-state. The boat funds are used for public fishing docks, parking lots, lights and other improvements at the many public waterways. I had more e- mails on this topic than any other single topic. This bill didn't make it out of committee either, but we had a room full of committed snowmobile and boat enthusiasts (and I put myself in that category).
The pace is increasing and I expect this week we will see many bills surface as Thursday was the final day to enter a bill. Discussions, ideas, solutions and thoughts are in constant motion, and hopefully we can continue to feed ideas to the Appropriations Committee and see what some of our choices are. The process of looking through the budget and finding areas to economize or do without will get us to the point of determining how short we are and whether there are sources of revenue at hand or whether an increase is the answer.
Any and all ideas are welcome. And thanks to all for the input during this first three weeks.
We will see you in Plankinton on Feb. 12 for a 10:30 a.m. cracker barrel.
Tona Rozum represents District 20 -- Aurora and Davison counties -- in the state House of Representatives.