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Senator Tom Brewer
My staff attended another in a long list of meetings we’ve attended about property taxes the other day. Represented at the meeting were over a dozen different industry groups. All of them are keenly aware of the impact any “solution” the legislature may come up with to the property tax crisis may have on their particular organization. I realize it’s their job, but I am still put off by how these groups focus on and jealously guard their piece of the pie. They are all looking out for their “special interest.” It’s sad to see people so near-sighted. A rising tide lifts all boats. If Nebraska does well, they will too. Instead they see the struggle to fix our immoral property tax problem though the lens of “winners and losers.”
So who’s looking out for the ordinary everyday Nebraska farmer or rancher? Right now, they are the biggest losers and have been for decades. One of the industry groups representing Agriculture said 60% of Nebraska’s farms and ranches will survive the terrible Ag economy we’re in. 30% are on the brink of bankruptcy and 10% will go under this year. Political people at the meeting groaned about the persistent “revenue problem” faced by the legislature year after year. Sales and income tax revenues are down again. The legislature will begin next month with a $95 million revenue shortfall requiring cuts in the State budget (again). This is not rocket surgery folks. The reason why revenues are down is very easy to understand.
1 in 4 jobs in Nebraska and 1 in 5 dollars in our State’s economy come from agriculture. The economy in Nebraska is driven by agriculture yet we have the HIGHEST agriculture property taxes in the country. Property taxes on agricultural property often exceed the amount of income a farmer or rancher could expect to make from the land. People are losing their homes, farms and ranches that have been in the family for generations. People are moving out of our state. There is a “brain-drain” of young college graduates who leave before the ink is dry on their diploma. People and businesses flee our state or don’t locate here to begin with because of property taxes. Tax revenues are down and the legislature is forced to cut the budget year after year because we are killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Tax revenues can rebound and our State’s economy can grow when Nebraska’s agriculture economy has recovered.
To be clear, I think everyone should have property tax relief, but for our State’s economy to turn around we must lift the yoke of property taxes off the neck of the farmers, ranchers and agri-business who are responsible for the lion’s share of it. Commodity prices certainly aren’t helping, and our country’s long-overdue struggle for a fair deal with America’s trading partners is making things tough as well. But how can we be surprised Nebraska’s economy is struggling when we ask the #1 economic engine of our State to run a marathon wearing lead boots?
Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at; firstname.lastname@example.org. Mail a letter to; Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at (402) 471-2628.