CAPITOL VIEW: By Ed Howard, Statehouse Correspondent, The Nebraska Press Association
What critics call the federal Dog Food Commission have zeroed in most especially on proposals from the panel’s co-chairs that would take an axe to Social Security benefits. The criticism has centered primarily on the perception that the defense budget could be cut by billions of dollars without putting a dent in the nation’s ability to protect itself, and that reducing tax breaks for those who make more than even $1 million annually would advance the fight against the deficit while enhancing the ability to support other programs – or even to allow Congress to replace the money it has swiped from the Social Security program over the past half century. It’s a subject currently seen by most as having to do with policy and policymakers in Washington, although it’s always good for engendering a conversation, an argument or a brawl almost anywhere. When might the issue come home to roost with ordinary Nebraskans, and the Nebraska Legislature? Answer: When cuts are imminent and the old folks at home realize their checks are going to be smaller, now or in the future. How might the Nebraska Legislature find itself involved? Answer: When the old folks at home closely eyeball their situation and realize that the State of Nebraska taxes their Social Security income. You can count on Social Security recipients becoming a more vocal interest group down the road. And it will be an interest group consisting of people who vote in large numbers, percentage-wise and otherwise. Given state government’s obscene deficit it’s not likely that abolishing the income tax on Social Security income will enjoy a groundswell of legislative support. Not yet.For Release Wednesday, November 24, 2010 (cont.) Want to have some fun? Call or write to your state senator and ask if he/she would introduce a bill to eliminate the state income tax on Social Security benefits. Some background:Nebraska is among 14 states that tax Social Security benefits. Those include Iowa and Missouri, both of which are phasing out such taxation. Nebraska is one of just nine states which include Social Security income at the same level as the federal income tax system. The others are Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia.About Those Federal Budget Reductions There are a slew and a-half, at least, of Congress members who have been screaming for fiscal blood when it comes to cutting the federal budget. Question: How come so many members of the House have made clear that they are not, not, not willing to sit on the previously prestigious Appropriations Committee? That would be the committee that makes budget recommendations, including budget cuts. Lots of people on the Potomac intend to make sure that they aren’t responsible for getting the budget slashing in particular that they previously championed, in general.