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I thought you might want to see the facts behind my positions on tax policy.
When talking tax policy in Nebraska, we refer to the three legged stool—taxes balanced between income, sales, and property taxes. Presently we are out of WAY OUT of balance. Last year, Nebraskans paid in billions: $8.9 in state and local taxes, $3.9 (43.8%) in property, $2.55 (28.7%) income, and $2.45 (27.5%) in sales and miscellaneous taxes. In Lincoln County, the inequity is even more dramatic. Last year, Lincoln County’s residents paid $71.3 million (51.5%) in property taxes, $31.7 (23%) million state income taxes, and approximately $35 (25.4%) million in sales taxes. If it seems to you that the proportion of your tax burden leans heavily to property taxes, the evidence shows you are correct in your belief. The easy political answer is to cut government spending. Locally, it is up to you to run for office or ask the right questions of candidates before you support them. On the state level, it is up to me to support policies that address the inequity in tax policy and to make sure the state does not pass down costly mandates to local government.
Our State’s property tax inequity is caused mainly by how we fund our public schools. Schools take well over half of your property taxes. As Education Committee Chairman, my focus has been to address the State Aid formula’s (TEEOSA) heavy reliance on property taxes. Last year I introduced LB640, which has made it through committee and is on general file but has strong opposition from senators representing some urban school districts that now receive the largest benefits from the status quo. With Nebraska’s unique one house Unicameral form of state government, the citizens are the second house and it may be time for them to take the issue into their own hands with a petition drive to put property tax equity on the 2018 ballot.
I would eventually like to see an individual income tax cut in Nebraska and to make Nebraska’s businesses competitive, I would prefer to eliminate many of the present economic tax incentives that go mostly to large corporations and replace them with the elimination of our State’s corporate income tax. But this is not the time for income tax cuts. It is our burdensome property tax structure that is driving retirees from our state, harming the rural economy, and hurting our housing markets. Like it or not, the property tax fix will have to come with a rebalancing of the three legged stool.
Monday, the County Commissioners set your tax rates for next year. As a local taxpayer it is good to see that many of the citizens who sit on local elected boards are trying to hold down the cost of government. The County Commissioners again lowered the County’s tax levy and only increased spending by a minimal amount. We all need to be reminded that although the County sends out your tax statements, they only receive 18% of the total property tax revenue. The local Ag Society (county fair) cut their tax rate and dollars nearly in half after doubling it for a year for a one time project. Mid-Plains Community College not only lowered their levy, they actually are taking less dollars ($16 million to $15.9). The villages of Sutherland and Wallace lowered their tax-rates and dollars. Thanks to the Airport Authority lowering their budget request, the city of North Platte was able to lower their levy slightly but due to reductions in sales tax revenues, they had to increase their dollars by $526,000. One way to lower your property taxes is to shop locally this holiday season and keep your sales taxes local.
The Twin Platte NRD reduced their tax-rate by 25% and reduced their dollars asked for by $632,000. Thank the irrigated farmer for paying his $10/acre occupation tax for lowering your NRD taxes. Now if the Twin Platte Board would agree to push for selling the NCORPE land, we could get those farmers a tax cut too.
Lincoln County’s total property taxes will go up. Individually it depends on where you live and if you were one of the unlucky ones who got a large valuation increase.