As of adjournment on Wednesday, April 11 only one day remains in the 2018 Legislative Session. We will convene on Wednesday, April 18 for the official last day of the 2nd biennium of the 105th Legislature to take action on a few bills on Final Reading and for closing ceremonies.
Monday was the final day for bills still on General File to advance in time to be passed this session. My priority bill to relating to the committees on Americanism, LB1069, was debated late in the night Monday. Starting at about 11:00 pm and ending shortly before midnight, we discussed the importance of civic readiness and foundational knowledge of American government. Although I and many others see this bill as being extremely important to the future of Nebraska’s Social Studies classes, the bill timed out before coming to a vote. Education Committee Chairman Senator Groene vowed to bring the bill back next year in some form.
A bill allowing the use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to be used for workforce development housing in Nebraska advanced on Tuesday. LB496 introduced by Senator Stinner allows municipalities to include workforce housing in redevelopment plans eligible for TIF funding. Using TIF funding for projects such as these increases the property tax assessment of the surrounding area while allowing the individual or company building and owning the housing development to only pay a baseline amount of property tax for a period of fifteen years. Passing this bill will result in higher property taxes for some individuals and businesses to the benefit of others paying minimal property taxes. Allowing TIF funding for private construction contradicts conservative principles of free markets.
Thirteen senators signed a letter presented to the Secretary of State Tuesday requesting a special session of the legislature to reduce property tax. I cannot support a special session for several reasons, especially as Agriculture Chairwoman. For one, a special session adds significant unbudgeted expenses during this time of economic downturn and revenue deficits. A special session would cost a minimum of $65,000 for seven days. Every penny your government spends is on the dime of taxpayers. Taxpayers who are need of tax relief instead of increased spending. Consider this, if all 49 senators were unable to come together during this session or at any other point during my eight years of service to District 16 in the legislature, what makes us think we’d be successful during a special session? My final session resulted in no compromise on property tax relief efforts and, instead, caused intense disagreements.
Responsible property tax relief must come in in the form of a plan that does not raise taxes, none, period. My concern is that a special session would actually result in higher taxes for some Nebraskans. Decades of efforts by legislatures past and present failed to control or reduce problematic and disproportionate spending across the board. Efforts must come from every level of government to end spending increases on the backs of property taxpayers. This did not happen overnight and cannot be resolved unless relief mirrors economic growth and the recovery of our ag sector.
A legislative body composed of only 19 rural senators and 30 urban senators has diluted ag interests one step at a time, taking more and more from an already distressed agriculture community. We only need to look at a proposal from Senator Schumacher to tax irrigation water one cent for every ten gallons to see which direction things could head. At the end of the day, odds are not in Agriculture producers’ favor that we will come away from a special session with tax real relief. The odds are we will end up paying more than we bargained for.
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