Thursday, January 29, 2004


There are two ways that military people can help Nebraska's schools: first, stay here upon retirement, and second, take teaching jobs.

There's an effort in the Legislature to inspire more of the first with LB's 880 and 881, which were discussed yesterday in the Revenue Committee. And in Nebraska as in other states, there are efforts underway to create alternative certification avenues for military people to qualify for jobs in schools.

Right now, an estimated 70 percent of the people who retire from Offutt Air Force Base move to other states. High taxes, especially the state income tax, are most often cited as the reason they leave.

Since Nebraska's fiscal problem is lack of people to pay for government services, it makes sense to do whatever it takes to keep more people here. The proposed new laws would forgive state income taxes for retirees after age 60. It is seen as an attractive measure to keep higher-ranking and thus higher-income retirees in the state.

Forgiving income taxes on active-duty pay for younger Nebraskans in the military is seen as more of a patriotic move, in recognition of all that they do for the rest of us.

Secondly, when we talk about the breakdown of discipline in our schools, and the lack of focus on excellence and diligence, the answer seems to be staring us in the face: retired military personnel would be an awesome addition to any school lineup.

As for retiring in Nebraska, here's the thought: if Nebraska would join South Dakota, Wyoming and other states in forgiving retired military people their state income tax, they might stay here after serving at Offutt Air Force Base and enjoy ''The Good Life,'' because it would make more financial sense than it does now. If they stayed here, they would share their wealth with our state's schools in the form of local property taxes, sales taxes and other forms of revenue to state and local government – that would be lost if they moved away to retire.

The fiscal impact for Nebraska's schools would be huge.

Now, it has been computed that the immediate loss of revenue to the state if military income taxes were forgiven, both for retired and active-duty military personnel, as envisioned by LB's 880 and 881, would total about $14 million.

But the increased revenue from keeping more military retirees here would far more than offset that. Plus, it would be easier to get people to move here from Colorado to join the Space Command, for example, advocates say.

Here's hoping the Legislature will see the wisdom of the proposal by the Military Officers Association of America--Heartland Chapter of America and its chief, Rick Savage. He knows better than anybody how important it is to keep taxpayers in Nebraska, supporting our schools: he's a former member of the State Board of Education.

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