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A majority of Nebraskans said they would swallow tax hikes elsewhere in exchange for paying less in property taxes, according to a "Family Feud" style survey from the Omaha-based Platte Institute.

While nearly half of the 300-plus people who responded to a survey said property tax relief should be at the top of the legislative agenda next year, 61 percent told the business-oriented Platte Institute they were willing to pay more in other taxes in order to see their property tax bills go down.

Adam Weinberg, communications director at the Platte Institute, said the unscientific survey was designed to obtain more information on what Nebraskans mean when they say they want property tax relief.

"It was kind of designed to put people in a vice and say, 'What would you put up with to get your property taxes to a lower place?'" Weinberg said.

According to the results published on Tuesday, some Nebraskans apparently put up with a lot.

Of those polled by the Platte Institute, 55 percent said they would support a state sales tax hike to generate new revenue capable of replacing revenue generated through locally assessed property taxes.

But, the Platte Institute noted, no consensus emerged as to which nine items or services should be taxed more. Among the results:

* 46 percent said they had no problem with paying sales taxes on personal services like haircuts.

* 44 percent said those who use transportation services like ride-share services or taxis should pay additional taxes.

* 38 percent said plumbing, electrical or other home repair services should be subject to more taxes.

* 25 percent indicated new taxes should be levied on groceries. Currently, the sale of any foods or ingredients used for home preparation are not taxed, according to the Nebraska Department of Revenue.

* 21 percent supported additional gas taxes, even after the Legislature enacted a gradual 6-cent gas tax hike over the veto of Gov. Pete Ricketts in 2015.

Weinberg said the results show Nebraskans may feel like higher sales taxes would provide more control over how they pay taxes, rather than feeling taxes foisted upon them by local government entities or watching it come out of their paychecks.

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But how any increase is deployed, either through an across-the-board increase or targeted increases on now-exempt items and services, needs to be done deliberately, Weinberg said, so it encourages Nebraskans to participate, maintaining a solid revenue stream.

And the wide show of support for different proposals calls for more study, he added.

"I think that we'd like to do some more scientific polling on it to see what the differences would be by region and demographic so we could share them with the (Legislature)," he said.

Sarah Curry, the Platte Institute's director of policy, said consensus is marshaling around the idea of removing certain sales tax exemptions or levying new sales taxes in order to provide property tax relief.

It will be up to the Legislature to determine which exemptions the state wants to cease offering, she added: "It will be a tough fight."

Particularly if the other responses to the Platte Institute's survey are indicative of the state's feelings on the issue.

Roughly one-third of respondents said the Legislature would need to find a way to lower property tax bills by 20 percent in order for them to feel the problem had been addressed. Another 30 percent said they would be satisfied with property tax bills that were 30 percent lower than they are currently.

The report notes that while a strong majority of Nebraskans want to see something done, "many taxpayers may also be hoping someone else will pay for their desired tax relief, and could have difficulty accepting that someone else could end up being them."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.


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