Baker ready for last stint in Legislature
Not only does Sen. Tom Baker support the governor's tax cut proposals, but the legislator from Trenton has some tax-cutting ideas of his own.
"I want to eliminate the state's add-back for depreciation," Baker said. "Nebraska decoupled from the federal depreciation bonus in 2002," he said. "That not only has been a bookkeeper's nightmare, but it has been very costly for Nebraska taxpayers, especially those with high-priced items such as tractors and manufacturing equipment."
If the depreciation add-back can be eliminated, Baker estimates the tax burden of Nebraska business owners and farmers could be reduced by $15 million to $16 million per year.
Gov. Dave Heineman and Sen. Baker have plenty of support in their desire to reduce taxes. In a survey conducted by the Associated Press, 35 of Nebraska's 49 state senators said they favor a reduction in taxes.
The campaign to cut back taxes resulted from a surge in collections, with budget analysts projecting that Nebraska will collect $262 million more in the current fiscal year than originally planned.
In order to get all the tax cuts accomplished, the senators will have to hit the ground running for the 2006 session. This will be the Legislature's short session, meaning that lawmakers will have only 60 days to get bills introduced and passed.
Sen. Baker will head back to Lincoln next Tuesday, Jan. 2, to get ready for the session which begins Thursday. The Trenton senator expects the Legislature to focus on carryover bills in the opening days of the session, probably attaching other bills to them to expedite action.
Besides taxes, other issues facing the Unicameral in 2006 will be water and telecommunications issues.
"I don't expect water to be as big an issue as originally expected," Baker said. His optimism is based on the fact that usage (by irrigators) is down dramatically. "The NRDs (Natural Resources Districts) are still tabulating results, but early indications are that the situation with water is not as bad as feared," he said.
As chairman of the Legislature's Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, Baker is also pushing legislation to address 911 wire-line and wireless issues. Eight counties in Nebraska-- including Hayes and Dundy in this area -- still need to establish systems to pinpoint the location of 911 calls. Also, Baker said the state is working on ways to trace wireless calls to 911 through Global Positioning System technology.
All the issues will have extra urgency for Sen. Baker this year. Unless the term limit law is overturned, he is in the final year of his second term in the Legislature.
If you would like to hear Baker's views directly, the McCook Area Chamber of Commerce's Governmental Affairs committee will begin hosting weekly telephone conferences with him at 8 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 12, at the chamber office.