Military retirement exemption step in right direction

Thursday, August 13, 2020

“Thank you for your service.”

It can be a cliché, but if we’ve worn a uniform, loved or lost someone who has, the words carry real meaning.

Nebraska lawmakers put their money -- our money -- where our mouths are, to a point, with the passage of a tax cut for military retirees.

U.S. Army veteran Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon sponsored the bill, which exempts half of a military retiree’s benefits from Nebraska state taxes.

Brewer said the bill would help attract and retain military service members after they retire, although even with half of the benefits exempted, it will be an uphill battle. Iowa and Missouri, for example, don’t impose any tax on military retirement, and have been successful in attracting retirees from Omaha’s Offutt Air Force Base.

The tax cut won’t affect all that many people, upwards of 13,000 military retirees, and it won’t cost anything until the fiscal year that begins July 2021. By 2025, it will cost about $14 million a year in lost revenue.

Instead of the “cost” to the state budget, however, we should be looking at the “savings” to those 13,000 retirees who have devoted a major chunk of their working lives to serving their country.

Gov. Ricketts made the bill one of his top legislative priorities this year, making the argument that military retirees often move on to second careers that help stimulate the economy.

Full exemption of military retirement benefits would be better than the half exemption included in the law, but given current economic conditions, that might be too much to hope for.

Letting military retirees keep a little more of the money they’ve earned isn’t much, but it’s a least a step in the right direction.

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