Limit Bonding Authority of Joint Public Agencies (JPA).JPA’s are a valuable tool to encourage governmental cooperation and efficiency. JPA’s have been used to great success around the state. However, a loophole in the JPA Act allows JPA’s to issue more bonds with less oversight than participating agencies can alone. Effectively, the Act allows agencies to administratively combine to increase their authority and their revenues. LIBA believes JPA’s bonding ability must be limited so they exercise no greater authority to bond than the JPA’s participating public agencies.
Reduce/Eliminate Unfunded Mandates to Cities and Counties. State law dictates many functions of county government yet the state does not pay for the counties to carry them out. For example, Lancaster County officials estimate the county spends nearly $20.3 million each year on unfunded state mandates including almost $10 million each year to house state prisoners. This practice is directly responsible for Nebraska’s heavy reliance on property taxes. State policy requiring that state programs be funded by state revenues will both increase transparency and help to relieve the burden of property taxes.
Close Nebraska Defined Benefit Pension Plans and Move New Employees to Defined Contribution Plans. Nebraska’s defined benefit pension programs at all levels have accumulated over $2.9 billion dollars in unfunded liability. This is an unacceptable risk for Nebraska’s taxpayers and Nebraska employees who depend on this fund for their retirement. It is time for Nebraska’s policy makers to address the issue by closing all of Nebraska’s defined benefit pension programs and moving new employees to a defined contribution retirement plan.
Reform and/or restructure the Commission on Industrial Relations (CIR). The CIR and CIR process is intended to resolve impasse between public employee unions and public employers. In practice, the CIR ties the hand of local officials. Under the CIR’s current structure the CIR determines employee compensation and leaves local officials little to no control over personnel costs. Personnel costs make up a significant portion of all local budgets and this proportion continues to grow as insurance costs increase. It is time to reform and/or restructure the CIR to allow local officials more control over their employees’ compensation and ultimately more control over their budget and tax levy.
Require all roads funding be spent on roads. In recent years a trend has emerged to spend tax revenues originally intended to fund roads, such as gas taxes and Build Nebraska sales taxes, to related but ultimately nonequivalent infrastructure projects such as bike paths and sidewalks. While paths and sidewalks are nice, roads are the critical infrastructure that connects our state. LIBA asks for a renewed emphasis in building and maintaining Nebraska’s roads and asks Nebraska’s legislators to require that revenues raised for roads are spent only on Nebraska’s roads.