Lagging state revenue figures and projections are pushing the 2018 Legislature into a corner and another moment of truth.

But this is going to be even more complicated if Congress enacts a tax reform package that comes loaded with consequences for state revenue, both apparent and undetermined or invisible.

The rote and reflexive response is to cut the state budget once again, reducing appropriations support for virtually everything but prisons.

No doubt, prison programming needs additional funding, but has that become the state's only priority now?

What happens in Congress could sharply revise the federal income tax system in a manner that may have a big impact on state revenue, both short-term and long-term.

Whether Republicans can find the votes in the Senate to enact a big tax package should be determined in December, probably less than a month before the Nebraska Legislature convenes.  

Once Nebraska's state policymakers try to figure out what hit them, they could discover negative changes in the state's revenue stream and more holes in the state budget that elected officials may be politically reluctant to fill even for vital programs, especially in an election year.

What happens in Washington doesn't stay in Washington.

* * *

Some instructive data emerged from the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry's new statewide business survey.

An adequate and skilled workforce, not taxes, was the major concern voiced by business representatives in response to a Chamber survey that accompanied legislative forums in 25 communities across the state.

The top three concerns: workforce quality and supply, 36 percent; taxes, 28 percent; government regulations, 20 percent.

Nearly 60 percent of the respondents said they would hire someone with a two-year college degree or a certified skill.  Only 10 percent said they would hire someone with only a high school diploma.

Nearly 38 percent identified population loss or a shrinking workforce as the most pressing issue for their community.

While almost 41 percent of the respondents said policymakers should lower state taxes, less than 15 percent said lawmakers should allocate more state funding to local governments in the hope of lowering local property taxes.

Those results reflect some of the divide in the Legislature over a comprehensive tax package supported by Gov. Pete Ricketts that would reduce state income taxes while reducing the assessed valuation of agricultural land for local property tax purposes.

While a majority of senators support the tax package — but not enough to overcome a filibuster by opponents — more senators are laser-focused on local property tax reduction than on state income tax cuts. 

* * *

What's next in Kansas?

Kris Kobach, the conservative crusader for voter ID restrictions, may be the next governor to be elected in Kansas, following on the heels of Sam Brownback, who is awaiting Senate confirmation as U.S. ambassador at-large for international religious freedom.

Donald Trump Jr. is coming to Kansas to be the featured speaker at a campaign fund-raiser for Kobach in Overland Park on Tuesday.

Kobach, the secretary of state in Kansas, was chosen by President Trump earlier this year to help lead a national commission to assess and address claims of voter fraud.

* * *

Mike Riley says he learned that this is a special place. And we learned that this is a special man.

But honor and decency don't show up on the scoreboard. 

Riley deserves a thank you; he worked hard, he restored important values and he has earned our respect.

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After watching this drama play out on TV at home on Saturday, it seems clear that the next step is in good hands. Bill Moos conducted a five-star news conference that was remarkably and refreshingly open and candid.   

But who knows how long it might take the next guy to turn this big ship around? A long time ago, a guy from Wyoming came in here and did it in one year.  

Moos says three years is a good measuring stick to apply at a place like Nebraska. And if you look at the schedule ahead, 2018 will be a tough year with a better chance to begin winning again in 2019.

What do I know? I'm just a fan.  

But, here goes, it seems increasingly clear from a seat in the north end zone that the Huskers need to recruit an army of big and athletic linemen on both sides of the ball. This is the Big Ten.

Oct. 7: Nebraska and Wisconsin are tied in Lincoln at 17-17.

And then: Wisconsin, 10 plays, 93 yards; Wisconsin, 10 plays, 80 yards: Wisconsin, 10 plays, 40 yards. Final score: 38-17.

This is the Big Ten.

Finishing up:

* Nebraska is one of 19 states whose residents would pay more in federal taxes in 2027 under the Senate Finance Committee's tax reform package, according to the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

* Four teenagers have entered the 2018 race for governor in Kansas. 

* Bearing down on December now and what looks certain to be a dramatic year ahead.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.



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