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Don Walton: Taxes, Ted Sorensen and the American Moonshot
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Don Walton: Taxes, Ted Sorensen and the American Moonshot

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The legislative path leading toward that elusive goal of potential tax reform is dramatically different this year.

The 2019 Revenue Committee is laser-focused on substantial property tax relief under the leadership of Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn.

Last year, the committee worked closely with Gov. Pete Ricketts on a tax reform bill that morphed over time to focus more intently on property tax relief while abandoning proposed personal income tax reduction and phasing in a corporate income tax rate cut.

This year's committee is considering adding an income tax element to its plan, but the focus will remain targeted at substantial property tax relief.

Last year's committee product had the governor's support; this year's plan will be opposed by Gov. Pete Ricketts because it appears likely to propose an increase in the state sales tax rate along with elimination of some sales tax exemptions in order to fund hundreds of millions of dollars of swift property tax relief. 

As always, a big tax reform package will need to acquire at least 33 votes in the 49-member Legislature to jump a filibuster waged by its opponents. That's an uphill challenge.

And then this year's plan would need 30 votes to subsequently override a gubernatorial veto. Political and/or partisan pressure can peel votes away from a bill on a veto override vote.

Former Sen. Jim Smith was able to corral 25 votes for last year's tax reform effort.

This year's proposal is likely to command united rural support with urban senators more likely to be divided.  

It's still a steep uphill climb.

* * *

Ted Sorensen makes occasional appearances in Douglas Brinkley's compelling new book published on the 50th anniversary of America's landing on the moon.

No surprise there.

The Nebraska native, former Lincolnite and University of Nebraska-Lincoln grad was an intellectual force and presidential adviser who helped Kennedy make — and write — history. But Sorensen never took credit for any of Kennedy's words.

One time during conversation I asked him whether he indeed had authored some of the most famous words that have gone down in history and remain familiar to all of us today.

"Ask not," he replied.

My copy of "American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race," written by historian Douglas Brinkley, has just arrived and it looks like it will be fascinating.

In his acknowledgements, Brinkley says it was Sorensen who first suggested he write a book about Kennedy's leadership in space policy 20 years ago. Brinkley began conducting interviews in 2001, beginning with Neil Armstrong and John Glenn. 

* * *

Finishing up:

* Sen. Justin Wayne is emerging this year as a skilled legislator.

* That 40-1 first-round approval of a bill to allow Gage County to levy a short-term sales tax to help take some pressure off property taxpayers as they begin to pay the $28.1 million judgment in the Beatrice 6 ruling was a big win for freshman Sen. Myron Dorn. It came with an accompanying accolade from Sen. Ernie Chambers.

* Glad to read that special counsel Robert Mueller's team has prepared and written summaries of his 400-page report. Most of us aren't up to reading 400 pages.

* Neither political party celebrates or honors George Norris — or Norbert Tiemann — today, but the State Capitol tours by Nebraska's fourth graders make sure those kids are aware of Norris. He is their tour guide on brochures handed out to each student. 

* Perhaps this legislative session's oddest recorded vote on a motion: 0-42. Sen. Ernie Chambers did not cast a vote on his motion to shelve a bill proposing changes in tax law. 

* And, speaking of taxes, it's time.

* It's also the best time ever to be a Husker fan, at least since Tom Osborne went 60-3.

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

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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