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As I continue to focus on property tax relief I received a letter that my valuation will go up 17% on top of the assessed valuation increases. Valuation increases do not need to turn into tax dollar increases. Local school boards, county commissioners, NRD boards, community college boards, and city councils have no excuse not to offset the valuation increases by lowering your tax levies. For example, the school board can lower your tax rate from 105 to 95 without doing harm to their state aid.
Start calling your local elected officials to let them know they cannot assume they have your approval to increase spending because of the valuation windfall. Budgets will be prepared in the next few months and will be ready for approval in September. The city and county will not only benefit from valuation increases, but also from increases in the gas tax which will increase road funding by 145% over the next 4 years. Those gas-tax dollars should enable them to lower your property taxes. Moreover, the usage of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) in Lincoln County drives up your property taxes ever further. Call your City Council representative and tell them to make all property owners support their schools and local government entities by paying their taxes; that would be a good start in lowering your property taxes.
Once again, here at the Legislature, other senators have decided a rebate on your property tax statement is the answer. I do not believe in overcharging you for income and sales taxes and rebating it on your property taxes is the long-term answer. The rebate does not keep up with the rapidly rising increases in valuations and the related burden of the tax increases. The real answer is to control spending at the local and state levels.
I am supporting an interim study in the Education Committee that will look at changing the mix of income, sales, and property taxes that fund public education. The goal is to have legislation ready from the Education Committee for the 2016 Legislative Session. If you examine your tax statement you will see that around 60% of your taxes go to public education. The present system does not favor rural taxpayers. 158 rural schools out of 245 total school districts in Nebraska do not receive state equalization aid.
LB259 provides personal property tax relief for businesses, so once again, your income and sales tax dollars will rebate the property taxes that businesses pay on the first $10,000 of property at a cost of $16.4 million. I voted for it, but I would instead like to see an across-the-board property tax reduction.
LB268 repeals the death penalty. It passed second round by a large margin. I am baffled at the mindset of the majority of my fellow senators. Standing on the principles that protecting the innocent and sending the message that we do not tolerate evil in Nebraska have become outmoded. I will not support eliminating the death penalty and will support the Governor’s veto.
LB173 will weaken criminal law dealing with habitual criminals. It passed first round. The recent uprising at the State Prison at Tecumseh is a good example why we must keep career criminals behind bars. I will continue to vote against this attempt to release habitual criminals onto our streets.
LB539 is the State Auditor’s bill. This is the legislation that will add Community Redevelopment authorities to the government entities that the auditor has authority to audit. It will be the first time taxpayers across the state will be able to contact a state government agency and be able to express their concerns about the proper use of Tax Increment Financing. It is not the final answer, but it is a start at putting some accountability into a widely used tax-avoidance program.
We are down to 7 days left in the session. The budget is going to end up at about a 3.7% increase, and we still do not have long term help to alleviate your burdensome property taxes. I am working on it, and hope to be part of the solution next year.