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As recovery efforts continue to pick up after the storms across state, my office has been in close contact with state and local officials to make sure that the people of District 41 are not forgotten about. As of Monday, more counties have been added to the higher level of available federal aid under the Emergency Declaration, and additional counties are still under consideration. As I’ve written before, the most important thing is that all of your damages are documented and reported to your county Emergency Manager. I’m asking every local official I speak with to tell me or my office if they aren’t getting the support they need from the state, and I’m glad to hear that most have positive things to report.
I also want to take time to update you on the property tax relief efforts of the Revenue Committee, of which I am a member. As many of you know, there were multiple bills directed at property tax relief this year, including some of my own. The Revenue committee has been working to put together a tax reform package, reflecting the contents of several of those bills. It is the intent of the committee to have a bill on the floor of the legislature by mid-April. We are currently working out the details of this “package,” which I will describe in more detail below.
The Revenue Committee reflects a cross-section of the body, with perhaps a slightly more conservative bent. We are made up of four urban and four rural senators. Because of the need to overcome an almost certain filibuster effort on the floor, it will be necessary to be able to ultimately secure 33 votes of the 49 members of the whole Legislature. With this in mind, I believe it would be very important to send a package to the floor with an 8-0 vote of the committee. Because of the need to get 33 votes, and to get as close to full support as possible in the committee, I’ve always felt that out of political necessity, the package should include several components. Something for everyone, so to speak. And that is what we most likely will present: a package that contains several components that will help to get buy-in from rural and urban interests, the business community, and the ideological right and left.
With several details still to be ironed out, the tax reform package will be anchored by a mechanism to deliver meaningful and substantial property tax relief for all Nebraskans. To accomplish that relief, the package will include components to generate new revenue, direct that revenue to school funding, and ensure that those dollars yield significant property tax relief. The revenue components will be centered around sales tax revenue, specifically a rate increase and closing some loopholes and exemptions, partly using components of my LB 314 and LB 507. The school funding components will most likely be a hybrid of bills by Senator Friesen and Senator Groene. It is likely that additional revenue components will include a small step up in the cigarette tax, utilization of internet sales tax revenue, removal of some income tax loopholes, and elimination of the personal property tax exemption, among other items.
As I write this, it is possible that the tax reform package will include some measure of income tax relief, a business tax incentive component, and a mechanism to compensate low income folks for their added sales tax outlays. But again, some of these details are still being ironed out, and are subject to change. But whatever emerges from the Revenue Committee, I’m confident it will be a tax reform package that can deliver immediate and substantial property tax relief for hardworking Nebraskans, and grow that relief as we go forward.