NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. Roy Baker

Sen. Roy Baker

District 30

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December 29th, 2015

Nebraska Unicameral Update

Sen. Roy Baker – District 30

 

PROPERTY TAXES.  The first recommendation of the 2013 Tax Modernization Committee regarding property taxes was to increase the state aid commitment to schools to offset property tax use and reduce property taxes as a share of total state and local taxes.  To that end, the Revenue and Education Committees conducted a series of joint meetings to explore possibilities.

 

The final meeting was held on November 30.  No legislative bill will be introduced by the joint committee.  It is likely there will be several bills brought forward by individual state senators.  The intent of those bills will likely center on some of the concepts discussed by the joint committee, including but not limited to the following:

 

  1. Increase the current Property Tax Credit Fund. Currently, over $400 million in property tax credits will be provided during this biennium.  However, with the current economic forecasts, the State revenues will not likely be sufficient to add to the current total. Concern was expressed that many taxpayers are not aware of the property tax relief measures that have been put into place since 2007.
  2. Change the assessment practices for agricultural land. Within this category ideas include: capping annual growth for all property;  one-year freeze in values; decreasing ag land valuation for purposes of the school state aid formula; and a implementing a circuit breaker for ag land when property taxes exceed X % of gross income.
  3. Increasing current tax sources: increasing sales taxes, increasing income taxes, broadening the tax base (eliminating exemptions), and in turn requiring lower property taxes.  Any proposal to increase income and sales tax rates is likely to receive significant opposition.
  4. Modifying school district budget and/or levy limits. The charge of the joint committee was to decrease overreliance on local property taxes.  Nebraska schools rely on local property taxes more than 48 other states.  The downside to reducing overall school district funding would be underfunding current education programs, possibly eliminating some.

 

A contributing factor to the current imbalance in property taxes resulted from rapidly escalating land values over the past several years, while residential valuations decreased following the housing bubble burst.  Recent information shows that residential valuations are now increasing again while ag land values have plateaued or even decreased in some areas.  Over time, the current imbalance will self-correct to some extent, though not likely fast enough to suit many.

Beatrice State Developmental Center.  Legislative Resolution 32, passed by the 2015 Legislature, provides for the continuation of the Developmental Disabilities Special Investigative Committee. The Committee has been in place to provide ongoing oversight of the placement and care of the developmentally disabled in Nebraska since 2008, following the temporary de-certification of the BSDC.  I serve as the vice-chairman of the committee.  We held a joint hearing with the Health and Human Services Committee on December 17.  We heard extensive testimony from Courtney Miller, recently appointed Director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities. Ms. Miller also serves as the interim director of the BSDC.

 

There is a strong trend nationally not to place developmentally disabled persons in institutions.  With the goal in mind of placing individuals in the least restrictive environment, more people are being served in home and community based programs, with proper support.  The trend does not take the BSDC off the table – there are some residents for which the BSDC likely is the least restrictive environment.  Director Miller stated that she and her DD staff will be working with the Executive Branch over the next year to develop a plan for what the BSDC should look like and be like in the future.   We anticipate receiving the report of that study in December, 2016.

 

As always, I welcome your communication.  Feel free to contact me on these matters, or any other subject related to the Legislature.  Please join our email list to receive the monthly District 30 newsletter. My Capitol office telephone number is 402-471-2620; the email address is rbaker@leg.ne.gov.  The website is http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist30/ and we are also on Facebook, search for Roy Baker.

Sen. Roy Baker

District 30
Room #1208
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2620
Email: rbaker@leg.ne.gov
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