The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce made its pitch Wednesday for state income tax reduction, arguing that Nebraskans "need tax relief" along with government spending restraints.

But "the dominant issue" for business and industry in Nebraska is developing a trained and adequate workforce, Chamber President Barry Kennedy told a breakfast briefing hosted by the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce.

That is a fundamental ingredient of economic development, he said.

Seven state senators participated in the event. 

A comprehensive tax reduction plan (LB461) that's pending in the Legislature was described as "at least a good start" in terms of tax relief.

That bill would gradually reduce income taxes and change the manner in which the state values agricultural land for local property tax purposes, thus reducing both income taxes and ag property taxes.

The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion and supported by Gov. Pete Ricketts, has been blocked on the floor of the Legislature by a filibuster.

Six Lincoln senators spoke briefly and outlined some of their priorities for the 2018 legislative session with several of them pointing to legislation that could help address the state's workforce challenges.

Both Sens. Adam Morfeld and Patty Pansing Brooks suggested legislation assuring protection of workplace rights for LGBT persons would make Nebraska more competitive in terms of retaining and attracting a growing workforce.

Pansing Brooks, Sen. Kate Bolz and Sen. Anna Wishart all pointed to the potential benefits of adequately preparing prisoners for release from prison with the skills needed to enter and succeed in the workforce.

Pansing Brooks said the young immigrants who have been educated and professionally trained in Nebraska under protection of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive action that's now under assault can enrich the workforce.

Adequate support for the University of Nebraska is also critical in terms of developing a sufficient and qualified workforce, she suggested.

Continued reform and improvements in the state's correctional system was a key legislative priority listed by a number of senators, including Sens. Matt Hansen and Suzanne Geist.

Pansing Brooks, who is a Democrat serving in the nonpartisan Legislature, recalled former Republican President Ronald Reagan's quote:  "The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally -- not a 20 percent traitor."

And, she stressed to the Chamber audience, "I'm a friend working with you."

Sen. John Stinner of Gering, chairman of the Legislature's Appropriations Committee, left the breakfast meeting before senators were invited to make remarks. 

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On Twitter @LJSDon.


Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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