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The Revenue Committee held a public hearing on LB 829 this past week. LB 829 proposes a refundable income tax credit equal to 50% of property taxes paid to support K-12 education. It has been projected that the legislation would result in an approximate 30% reduction in property taxes. The hearing lasted for more than 4 hours, with more proponents testifying than opponents. Supporters included property owners and agricultural organizations. Business organizations and education groups were among the opponents. The same groups that are backing LB 829 are also working on an initiative petition drive to put a similar proposal before voters should the Legislature fail to act on LB 829.
The desperate need for property tax relief was reiterated by many proponents of the bill. Not only are rural landowners seeking assistance, homeowners also are in need of relief. The Tax Foundation has ranked Nebraska #12 in property tax collections per capita.
Much debate at the public hearing focused on how the property tax relief would be paid for. Senator Steve Erdman, of Bayard, the sponsor of LB 829, was adamant that it was not his responsibility to find the revenue. He stressed that it was his duty to focus on the problem and the Legislature would need to determine how it would be carried out.
The Governor is actively opposing LB 829, as it is projected to cost over $1 billion annually, which represents approximately one-fourth of the state budget. His message warns that the state would have to raise taxes in order to lower the property tax, stating that such steep cuts in revenue as proposed by this plan would leave legislators no option but to raise sales and income taxes. The governor stressed that his goal has always been lower taxes overall, not raising one tax to lower another.
Some senators support the broadening of the tax base, by eliminating various sales tax or income tax exemptions, and other support a cigarette tax increase or a sales tax increase to fund property tax relief. The public hearing on the Governor’s proposal to lower income taxes, as well as property taxes, will be held on January 31, also before the Revenue Committee. Due to such different ideas proposed, my concern is that senators won’t agree on one method of offering much needed property tax relief.
LB 780, introduced by Lincoln Senator Patty Pansing Brooks, proposed to ban multiburst trigger activators (bump stocks) and firearm silencers (suppressors). At the public hearing this past week before the Judiciary Committee, she offered an amendment to remove the ban on silencers from the bill.
Senator Pansing Brooks informed the committee that she introduced the bill because citizens need greater protections from mass shootings. She stressed that she is not limiting the ability of citizens to own a gun, but that this bill deals with gun accessories. Bump stocks were linked to the gunman in Las Vegas who shot and wounded many victims at an outdoor concert last year. This device allows semi-automatic rifles to be fired almost as rapidly as automatic guns.
Even though the NRA issued a statement after the Las Vegas shooting stating that they believe the devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations, the NRA still opposed LB 780. The representative from the NRA explained that the statement called for a review by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on whether the devices complied with federal law. They are supportive of the ATF doing their job, not a ban on bump stocks. Others were opposed as well, as more opponents than proponents testified on LB 780, arguing that the legislation was too broad or it may lead to the banning of additional accessories. Opponents testified that the normal use of trigger activator devices is to modify a gun for competition shooting or used by people with disabilities to assist with sporting activities. The proposed legislation would restrict this.
Again, I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts and opinions of legislation before us. I can be reached at District #1, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my telephone number at the Capitol is (402) 471-2733.