Thanks, Obama. No, Seriously, Thanks.

In a time when it seems like one half of the country nearly despises the other half for disagreeing with their politics, are there any issues in the Nebraska Legislature where voters as a whole would reward compromise?

Three major policy areas are attracting bipartisan support across the country, and these issues can bring together Democrats, Republicans, and even Independents and Libertarians in the Unicameral.

Occupational licensing reform attracts a diverse coalition of supporters, since it addresses the worst features of government regulation, while encouraging upward mobility for vulnerable workers.

We’re specifically talking about jobs where the barriers to entry should be low, but aren’t.

According to the Institute for Justice, Nebraska is:

  • One of only six states requiring a license to become a title examiner, and only Nebraska requires a year of experience to become licensed;
  • Among the most burdensome in the country for becoming a cosmetologist or barber, requiring 2,100 credit hours for credentialing;
  • The only state requiring 730 days of experience to run a bill collecting agency;
  • Requiring twice as many days of experience as most states for massage therapist licensing.

State occupational licensing laws often have less to do with the risk of the service being offered than the political clout of industries in a given state.

For instance, it takes fewer days to be certified as an Emergency Medical Technician in Nebraska than a manicurist. While these hurdles create problems for entry-level workers and entrepreneurs, experienced practitioners, including military families that relocate frequently, are affected as well.

In July 2015, the White House issued a report on occupational licensing barriers; calling for states to implement a 21st century framework that uses less burdensome approaches to regulation. They correctly point out that these inconsistent requirements pose an obstacle to economic growth.

Contributions to occupational licensing reform could be the Obama administration’s precious free market moment that even the Platte Institute will look back on fondly.

Can there be common ground on Tax Reform in Nebraska? Maybe. People who study taxes on both sides of the issue agree that a broad tax base and low tax rates are better than a tax system riddled with loopholes.

Here’s where a compromise can be reached: let’s start with tax reform that doesn’t require substantially cutting or adding spending, but aims to raise revenue at the lowest possible rates. The most obvious way to do this is to close loopholes, though everyone has one they currently enjoy.

Many sales tax exemptions are holdovers from a time before the U.S. was a service-based economy. On the income and property tax side, incentives and abatements for influential taxpayers make it harder to afford broad-based tax relief, contributing to tax rates in Nebraska being higher than they need to be.  

With income tax being especially harmful to economic growth, and property tax being especially undesirable to the public, a tax reform consensus will require everyone to give a little to get a little.

One minor change can substantially increase Education Choice for families of all incomes and backgrounds. Today, a donation to a scholarship granting organization helping low- and middle-income families afford private school tuition or homeschool assistance can be deducted from federal and state income taxes.

Not everyone itemizes their deductions, though, which tends to favor those in higher tax brackets. An Opportunity Scholarship tax credit would make this incentive to donate available to everyone who pays state income taxes, including modest-income taxpayers and corporate donors.

Florida’s tax credit scholarship program is the largest model in the country. It serves nearly 78,000 students a year. Their tax credit attracts major private donations, including a recent $65 million corporate gift, funding tuition for 11,000 low-income students. 

But wouldn’t this just be another costly loophole? No. Education tax credits, like other privately-funded education programs, save taxpayers money.

In addition to research showing private school choice programs improve student achievement and enjoy high levels of parental satisfaction, these programs shore up dollars that can be reinvested in public education. Florida’s program was found to generate $1.49 in savings for every $1 in privately-funded, tax-credited contributions.

Education tax credits also enjoy growing support in both parties across the country. Iowa’s tax credit program was signed into law by Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York continues to stump for an education tax credit in his state, and a new state has passed an education tax credit in eight of the last ten years.

With Iowa, Kansas and South Dakota already offering similar credits (South Dakota’s credit is based on insurance premium taxes), and Missouri and Colorado not likely far behind, Nebraska would now be on sound footing to provide this option to families as well.

Removing barriers to jobs, closing tax loopholes, and encouraging charitable scholarship support can lift up Nebraskans of all backgrounds through expanded job opportunities, increased income for workers, and additional educational options. Senators can unite around these policies because they offer the best kind of compromise: not one where we give up on our principles, but where we achieve a common goal by building upon our shared values.

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