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This week, the Legislature took its first positive steps towards property tax relief. Wednesday’s first round of debate on the budget proved to be a productive one, ensuring at least $272 million designated in the budget for property tax relief in this session. The Appropriations Committee voted in April by a margin of 7-2 to cut an increase in property tax relief from the initial budget from $51 million to $26 million, trimming the allocation for the Property Tax Credit Fund from $272 million to $247 million. Members of the committee argued that the cut was necessary to replenish our state’s Rainy Day Fund. However, none of those committee members who voted in favor of the cut could explain why wasteful spending was not trimmed before raiding the Property Tax Credit Fund.
Sen. Linehan introduced a floor amendment to restore the full $51 million increase for relief. This floor amendment was adopted 28-8, with twelve members choosing to be “present, not voting.” Usually, “present, not voting” indicates that the senator either opposes the measure but does not want to take a strong position on the issue by voting “no” or the senator truly has not studied the bill enough to be comfortable taking a position. I voted in favor of Sen. Linehan’s floor amendment and firmly believe there are still several places in the budget where we can trim down wasteful spending to provide additional, meaningful property tax relief. The budget, which now has $272 million designated for the Property Tax Relief Fund, advanced past the first round of debate and will be back on the floor for the second round next week.
On a related note, WalletHub’s 2019 analysis of tax rates by state was released on March 12, 2019. Nebraska was ranked as the 47th “Best State to Be a Taxpayer.” The analysis compiled both the local and state tax obligations for the median U.S. household by income of each state. 47th of 51 (Washington, D.C., was included in the list), is not a competitive ranking by a long shot. An observation that has been tested and proven over the years is that at the root of every taxation crisis is a government spending problem. The next round of budget debate will allow the Legislature to cut more wasteful spending and direct those funds towards property tax relief. This approach is just one of many opportunities available for property tax relief in this session. As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.