Friday, January 27th, 2012

The Legislature’s Revenue Committee has scheduled a public hearing on Gov. Heineman’s corporate an personal income tax proposal.  These charts and an analysis of the proposal show the impact of the cuts.  A quick summary is below.  Thanks to Open Sky Policy Institute for doing such a thorough analysis.  We ask you to please reach out to the Revenue Committee and ask them to NOT support this bill.  Their contact information is below.

* LB 970’s plan would almost double the deficit projected by the
Legislative Fiscal Office.  The deficit is currently projected to be $343
million; LB 970 would increase it to $636.5 million ending in 2014-15.

* More than half of the proposed cuts to the personal income tax would go
to the wealthiest 20% of taxpayers (those making $88k or more), at a cost
of $126 million.

* More than one-fifth of the reduction would go to the richest 5% of
taxpayers, at a cost of $50 million.

* The richest 1 percent of taxpayers would receive 9% of the reduction, at
a cost of $21 million

* The lowest-income taxpayers in the bottom 20% (those making less than
$20k) would receive 1% of the tax reduction. The 40% of Nebraskans who make
less than $36,000 would receive 7% of the reduction.

*Only 20% ($46m) is devoted to lowering the taxes of Nebraskans making less
than $57,000 per year- who make up well over half our state’s residents.

*For reference, according to the US Census, the average median household
income in Nebraska is $47,470.

Committee Members (click to get their contact information)

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Engagement & Community Involvement, News, Transparency

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle announced several upcoming openings on City of Omaha Boards and Commissions.  We view these as important opportunities and encourage you to consider how serving could shape the future of Omaha.

The following boards have current opportunities, however you can review all boards and commissions to find one that fits your interests and skill set.   If you want detailed information, you can view the detailed listing for each board.

- Parks and Recreation Board
- Transit Authority Board
- Mayor’s Advisory Commission for Citizens with Disabilities
- Landmarks Heritage Preservation Commission
- Architects/Engineers Review and Selection Committee
- Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau Advisory Board

Those interested in applying for one of the appointments should contact Barb Velinsky, Mayor Suttle’s Community Director, at 402-444-6274 or via e-mail to Barb Velinsky.  Please click the email link and attach your completed application to the email.  We will help ensure your application is routed correctly.

Applications must be received by February 10, 2012 for these boards.

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Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

A brief comment on the disagreeable campaign events of last week involving Forward Omaha and two emergency (homeless) shelters in the community.

1.  First, and foremost, VOICE adamantly opposes any attempt made by agency or person to manipulate or take undue advantage of any member of the community, especially those in particularly vulnerable situations such as people living in poverty and/or homelessness. VOICE is firmly committed to the rights and wellbeing of all people who, together, compose this community.

2.  While we strongly disapprove of the so-called “training” tactic employed by the Forward Omaha Campaign, it is important to be aware of the fact that it is common practice by Republicans and Democrats to bus voters during the election season.  The inaccessibility of the Election Commissioner’s Office makes it a considerable challenge for citizens without proper transportation to vote early – or vote at all. Everyone, including the homeless, who has a right to vote, should be given every opportunity to do so.

3.  Regardless of tactics, the recall remains a bad idea for Omaha. At its core, the recall is an overly-emotional response to tough economic times. Regardless of how one feels about Jim Suttle’s decisions, or those of any public servant, recalls should be reserved for individuals who have committed a crime punishable by law — not for raising taxes.

Vote against the recall.

Get your friends and family to do the same.

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The Omaha City Council recently held a public hearing on an amendment that would change Omaha’s ordinance against discrimination to include sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity.

The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce asked the City Council to delay a decision on the issue so they could research the impact the change would have on the ability to compete for jobs and investment. The Council voted to delay the issues for 4 weeks, and is now scheduled to vote on the issue on October 26.

Help ensure that the Chamber and City Council support this change that will push Omaha in the direction of equality and make Omaha a more just and desirable place for all current and future residents.

To learn more about the ordinance and how to take action, visit Citizens for Equal Protection 

VOICE your support by signing the petition to the Omaha City Council


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Engagement & Community Involvement, News, Transparency

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

The following op-ed will appear/has appeared in the October 1 edition of the Omaha World Herald.

Let’s put an end to Omaha’s recall fever

By Craig  Moody & Laura Burhenn

The writers are steering committee members of VOICE Omaha.

We represent a group of citizens, many of us young leaders, who are excited about the future of Omaha. It is our mission to help Omaha become a first-class city–one with everything from accessible and safe bike paths, to a vibrant arts and culture scene, to strong government services. We didn’t all vote for Mayor Suttle but all agree that the recall effort is bad for the future of our city.

In the September 24, 2010, edition of the Omaha World Herald, Jeremy Aspen outlined his justification for the recall effort.  While numerous cities across the country are considering filing for bankruptcy, Mayor Suttle did what any reasonable leader could by both making cuts to the budget and asking those of us who benefit from city services to pitch in. A great number of us understand our obligation to help keep our city vibrant. The anti-tax sentiment neglects the cost of doing business, while many of those same people complain about the roads and trash pickup.

It is our opinion that Mayor Suttle was left holding the baggage from administrations past, not only regarding the AAA bond rating, but also on the police and fire contracts and overall budget. Given the troubles that the City faced from the start of his administration, he has done the best he can, negotiating with both the unions and the city council to come to agreement.

Misinformation about many of the Mayor’s decisions is far too commonplace.  In her recent letter to the World Herald, Bonne Stephens hopped on the bandwagon of misinformation by pointing to the hiring of a bike/pedestrian coordinator. Is it possible Ms. Stephens neglected to read the paper the day the World Herald noted that this position is partially funded by MAPA with the remainder of coordinator’s salary covered by local grant dollars?  Such a funding structure has a negligible impact on Omaha taxpayers.

Assuming that a budget crisis requires city government to remain stilted is backward thinking. Mayor Suttle has shown strong leadership in managing a strained city budget alongside an active agenda for securing alternative forms of funding to better city services and strengthen our community.  The new bicycle/pedestrian coordinator is only one example of this vision.

It is important to stress that the Douglas County Election Commission indicated a recall could cost as much as $900,000 if three elections were needed: a recall election to remove Suttle from office, an election to choose a new mayor, and a runoff election. This doesn’t include the cost of distracting city operations from the real problems at hand.

Regardless of whether or not there is complete agreement on Mayor Suttle’s policies, a recall effort is not a smart move for the City of Omaha.  And based on a poll we recently conducted, 84% of VOICE membership agrees that a recall is not in the best interest of the City.

We sincerely hope that Omahans will see through the hypocrisy and misleading information and save us the trouble and expense of a recall by refusing to sign the petition. Our community and the future of this great city are at stake.



Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Representative Lee Terry should be careful when choosing his words – especially when they are not his own. The New York Times reported that statements in the official record of the historic House debate on health care reform made by several lawmakers – both Democrats and Republicans – were actually drafted by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies. According to the report, “it is unusual for so many revisions and extensions to match up word for word. It is even more unusual to find clear evidence that the statements originated with lobbyists.” Terry told the Omaha World Herald that he would avoid picking up lobbyists’ words in the future.

Editor’s note:  It should be noted that Jim Esch, who ran and lost twice to Congressman Terry (and who also was accused of plagiarism during the 2008 election) is a member of the VOICE Steering Committee.

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Friday, November 13th, 2009

A recent audit of the University of Nebraska’s $40-million-a-year purchasing program revealed several questionable purchases made with public funds. One notable example was a $15,000 first class airline ticket to China. According to an Omaha World Herald article, many of the problems revealed were related to improper documentation rather than questionable spending, as some flagged purchases were supported by private dollars. The University responded positively, saying that they will use the information to “improve business practices, strengthen internal controls, and reduce risk of fraud and abuse.”

In a report regarding a list of perks given to top University administrators, Jack Gould of Common Cause Nebraska, cited his concern about how private money could potentially influence a public institution, stating that taxpayers have a right to know how not just public, but private dollars are spent by the University. Gould filed an official request under the State of Nebraska’s Open Records Law to view the list.

VOICE commends the University of Nebraska’s aim for transparency in how it spends public funds, and hopes it will maintain that same transparency in its spending of private funds as well.

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