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Sen. Harms reviews 2014 legislative session
September 18, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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Senator John Harms

Outgoing State Sen. John Harms of the 48th District has been visiting several towns in the district to review the past legislative session and receive input from his constituents.

At a stop in Gering, Harms said he will pass along concerns he gathers to the winner of this year’s legislative race. To begin, he thanked his constituents for the opportunity they gave him to serve their interests in state government. Along the way, he learned a lot about how government works and the major challenges the state faces to continue growing into the future.

In the 2014 session, 460 bills were introduced by state senators. Harms said that too often this year, bills that passed on first reading and were idle were amended into other bills.

“I think that process has gotten out of hand,” he said. “The Legislature allows it, but it does nothing for transparency with the public. It’s even hard for my office to deal with them.”

Harms said the 2014 session was especially difficult as a number of filibusters took place, which contributed to lots of discord and acrimony.

Also during the session, senators made adjustments to the state’s $8 billion budget. The governor vetoed 60 line items and 32 program sections, which Harms said is a lot. The Legislature overrode about 90 – 95 percent of those vetoes.

“The Legislature wanted to make sure we were moving our state forward because all the bills we passed had an impact on that,” Harms said.

Over the next five years, the state will give residents $412 million in tax relief. The state also improved the income tax brackets to meet inflation and expanded the homestead exemption, as well as eliminating sales tax on farm machinery repairs.

An additional $25 million in property tax relief was also approved in 2014, but Harms said that’s not enough. During statewide hearings over the issue, both rural and urban residents said property tax was their most pressing issue.

“How we determine our assessed valuation has a big impact on our property tax structure,” he said. “Valuations keep going up and that’s causing problems. Most other states value land on what the property produces. I think that’s the way we’ll have to go in the future. But I want to make sure it doesn’t harm us because the revenue will have to be made up somewhere else.”

Harms also said the Legislature set aside $11 million this year toward renovations to the State Capital building. The 10-year project is estimated to cost $77 million.
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