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Since mid-February, the revenue committee has now held hearings on four more bills I introduced to that committee as part of a comprehensive look at ways we can begin to address the property tax crisis. I’ll briefly cover each proposal, and also give you an overview of what I expect to see coming out of the committee in terms of tax relief.
LB314 probably got the most attention of any of my bills so far this year, and understandably so: if passed as introduced, it would represent a significant change to the reliability of K-12 education funding, a comprehensive alteration to our state tax structure, and would nearly tripled the amount of money every homeowner, farmer, and non-ag business owner receives from the property tax credit fund. The bill had its share of opponents, as any change to tax structure is bound to, but I was also glad to see that representatives of education groups, ag groups, and everyday property taxpayers all came out to support it.
LB507 and LB508 are very similar bills which serve the same purpose: close loopholes in our sales tax law and direct any new money as a result to the Property Tax Credit Fund. Every fiscal policy group I’ve come across, from the OpenSky Policy Institute to the Platte Institute to the Tax Policy Center, agrees that the best sales tax must be applied broadly to almost all consumer purchases. Various groups, of course, take different approaches to whether necessities like medical expenses and food should be included. Most agree that business inputs should be excluded. Both of these bills would close dozens of loopholes in our sales tax code, carved out over decades by special interests and lobbyists. When one purchase is arbitrarily not subject to sales tax while others are, the state collects less money. The more this happens, the less money the state has to spend on things like K-12 education and state services. The best policy is to close all of the loopholes at once, so that no one group or industry is singled out. This, of course, is easier said than done: the common refrain from almost every special interest at these hearings is “good tax policy dictates a broad base, and almost all transactions should be subject to tax. Now, here’s why my carve-out is special….” I appreciate the hard work that many of the lobbyists for these special interests do to protect special treatment for their clients, but at the end of the day, when property taxes are starting to have a crushing impact on our state’s economy, we simply cannot maintain that special treatment.
Lastly, LB506 is a comprehensive tax asking cap on K-12 property tax requests which would ensure that any new money directed to K-12 education would result in a corresponding drop in property taxes for all Nebraska taxpayers.
Now, there are a lot of competing property tax relief proposals out there. I expect to see the aspects of my bills, and the aspects of others’ bills, which are most likely to have traction in the body be put together into a comprehensive package. When everyone has contributed a piece to the whole, and when everyone has several things to like -and maybe a couple of things to dislike- about a proposal, it has a better chance of passage than one single concept from one person.
I’m glad this year to be serving with great colleagues on the revenue committee, and very grateful that the body elected someone like Sen. Linehan to chair the committee. Working together, and keeping the best interests of all Nebraskans at heart, I am confident that this year will be the year that a meaningful step forward for property tax relief has a fighting chance in Lincoln.
Last week, the 106th Legislature convened on Wednesday and elected chairs and made committee assignments. I was fortunate enough to have earned the trust and confidence of my colleagues to serve as the chair of the General Affairs Committee. The General Affairs Committee has a wide mandate which covers a number of topics including the regulation of alcohol and gambling, libraries, music licensing, cemeteries, the Nebraska Electrical Act, and the Nebraska Arts Council.
On Wednesday, the Committee on Committees was selected and, caucusing by congressional district, assigned senators to serve on committees for the next two years. Again I was very fortunate to be placed on the Urban Affairs Committee and on the Revenue Committee. That second one is something I’m particularly excited by. Almost all of the bills I have introduced over the past two years which targeted property tax relief were heard in the Revenue Committee. While I will be only one of eight senators sitting on the committee, I am very hopeful that we will be able to work together to craft legislation which will give Nebraskans the property tax relief they are demanding. I say I am hopeful because Senator Lou Ann Linehan, who was elected chair of the committee, has stated her commitment to property tax relief, as have a majority of our fellow committee members. The tricky part, as always, will be finding a consensus: first among committee members, and then among the Legislature as a whole.
Over a hundred bills were introduced on the first day of session, and bill introduction will continue until Wednesday the 23rd. Only time will tell which bills draw the most attention from the public, and which bills even make it to the floor of the legislature for debate. But I always take the input of my constituents seriously, and my staff maintains a file for each bill we get your feedback on, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch. For feedback on bills, email is the best option as it allows us to organize a folder for all the folks who weighed in on that bill.
On the topic of staff, there are a couple of changes to my office this session. Elizabeth Todsen, who served as my Administrative Assistant since day one, was offered the opportunity to move up in the world and serve as the Legislative Aide to Senator Dave Murman of Glenvil, who represents a rural district in south-central Nebraska. She will do an excellent job, and I congratulate Sen. Murman on a great hire. I have hired Alexander DeGarmo to replace her, who will also serve as the General Affairs Committee Clerk. Additionally, I have hired Loguen Blazek to fill the vacancy as the Legal Counsel to the committee. Edward Boone remains my Legislative Aide.
When you come to Lincoln, feel free to stop by the office and say hi. I always have time for constituents if I am in town – although calling ahead is always appreciated. Our new office is room 1019, on the west side of the Capitol, but our phone number remains (402)471-2631 and my email is still email@example.com.
Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 41st legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.
You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact my staff and me about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.
Sen. Tom Briese
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