NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Steve Erdman

Sen. Steve Erdman

District 47

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at serdman@leg.ne.gov

Welcome
January 3rd, 2024

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 47th 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 me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.

Sincerely,
Sen. Steve Erdman

Dan Pilla
June 14th, 2024

Straight Talk From Steve…
June 14th, 2024

Nebraskans are now receiving their new property valuation notices in the mail. As a result, many Nebraskans are suffering from sticker shock once they see how much the value of their property has increased since last year. Mine, for example, went up forty percent! Other property owners are seeing their valuations increase by as much as fifty percent.

What these property valuation notices demonstrate is how broken Nebraska’s tax system is. To be sure, you can bet your last dollar that the tax levies won’t decrease by the same percentage as your valuation increase in order to keep the property taxes the same as last year. Instead, this trend in rising property values and rising property taxes will continue, forcing Nebraskans to sell their properties and move to more tax-friendly states. Not only is Nebraska’s tax system broken, but it cannot be repaired.

Nebraska’s tax system unfairly targets landowners. In order to help you see this, consider where the State of Nebraska and its political subdivisions derive their revenue. According to the Beacon Hill Institute, 47 percent of all tax revenues in Nebraska are derived from property taxes, compared to 28 percent from individual income taxes, 19 percent from sales taxes, 6 percent from corporate income taxes, and 6 percent from excise taxes, fees, and other miscellaneous taxes. As you can see, property owners carry the heaviest load of Nebraska’s tax burden.

Nebraska’s tax system is not neutral. Daniel J. Pilla is a tax expert who will be speaking in the East Campus Union at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, June 21. Dan Pilla advocates for what he calls “the ten principles of good tax policy.” Principle number 6 is the principle of neutrality. According to Pilla, “Taxes should not fall more heavily on one industry or class of individuals than on others.” Whenever taxes target a particular industry or class of people, people stop purchasing the item that is subject to the tax, and that is exactly what has been happening in Nebraska. For example, because Nebraska’s tax system unfairly targets property owners, the old Cabela’s campus in Sidney continues to sit empty year after year without a new owner.

Neutral taxation used to be a core principle of American tax policy. Our American forefathers understood the need for tax neutrality. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court condemned the practice of unfairly targeting a particular class of people with taxes back in 1874 in a case known as Citizens Savings & Loan v. Topeka. The high court said in that case about the power of taxation that “This power can as readily be employed against one class of individuals and in favor of another, so as to ruin the one class and give unlimited wealth and prosperity to the other…” Is that not what is happening in Nebraska?

Nebraska will continue to see more people leaving our state. According to the World Population Review more people are leaving Nebraska than are moving into Nebraska. 55.7 percent of all moves now belong to residents who are moving to other states. Nebraska has one of the highest percentages in the country. Nebraska has the tenth highest percentage of folks leaving the state. We are now in the same league with Massachusetts (57.6 percent), Michigan (57.7 percent), and California (59.3 percent). Nebraska has a higher percentage of people leaving our state than any of our neighboring states, and this is not a statistic we should be proud of.

State Senators will continue to beat their heads against the brick wall of tax neutrality until they come to the realization that the EPIC Option Consumption Tax is the only fair way to tax the people. If the members of the Legislature believe the solution is to simply eliminate certain sales tax exemptions, then the result will be the same for those industries and classes of people who become the targets of their new tax policy after a special session of the Legislature. The only way to make taxes fair, is to put the people in charge of how much money they pay in taxes every year, and that is exactly what the EPIC Option Consumption Tax does. As Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist Paper Number 21, the consumption tax is the only tax which is fair and can never over tax the people.

How many American flags have ever flown on the moon? If you answered, six, you are correct. Each lunar American flag was made of nylon material and was fixed to an aluminum telescoping pole. These flags came in a special kit which were carried on the outside of the Apollo Lunar Module on the descent ladder and were stored inside an insulated tubular case to protect them from the heat of the exhaust, which could reach temperatures up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of the flags measured 3 X 5 feet.

Before the first American flag was ever erected on the moon a controversy brewed over the legality of doing so. The Outer Space Treaty had already prohibited the United States from ever making a territorial claim to any extraterrestrial body. So, the United States had to make their intentions clear that they were not laying claim to the moon by erecting a flag there.

Four months after the landing of Apollo 11 in 1969 and the first planting of an American flag on the moon, Congress passed a bill which was signed into law by President Nixon which declared that no flag other than the American flag could ever be erected on the moon or any other planet and that any such “act is intended as a symbolic gesture of national pride in achievement and is not to be construed as a declaration of national appropriation by claim of sovereignty.”

The first time an American flag was erected on the moon, it didn’t go so well. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had trouble penetrating the dust of the lunar surface with the pole. It turned out that lunar dust has sharper edges than earth dust, making it more difficult to penetrate. It’s also not so easy to erect a pole in lunar dirt when you are wearing a spacesuit and are dealing with 16.6 percent gravity compared to earth. As a result, the two astronauts managed to get the pole submerged only seven inches deep. When they backed away, they saw that the flag could stand on its own. However, they planted that flag only 27 feet from the Eagle landing craft. When the astronauts returned to Earth, Buzz Aldrin reported that the rocket blast had blown the flag over. NASA learned from this and instructed astronauts in subsequent missions to plant the flag further away from the landing craft.

The crew of Apollo 12 also had some trouble. Astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean had trouble with the latch mechanism which was supposed to keep the flag horizontal. Because the latch mechanism wouldn’t cooperate, they ended up drooping the flag at an angle. That horizontal latch mechanism is also important for resolving the old conspiracy theory which claims that flags in space don’t fly or wave. According to NASA, “In addition to the vertical pole that supported the side of the flag, they included a horizontal arm along the top of the flag to hold it out.”

Some of these flags are still standing. In 2012 the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter took photographs of the landing sites for the Apollo missions 12, 16, and 17. Those photographs indicated that the flags from those missions remain standing on the moon, but sunlight and radiation may have so faded the colors that they appear white today.

As you know, June 14 is Flag Day. The influence of American ingenuity is felt today around planet Earth and even extends out to the moon and all the way out to the planet Mars. When Buzz Aldrin saluted the American flag on the surface of the moon, he called it “the proudest moment” of his life. Although you and I have never been to the moon, I hope that we can appreciate where our flag has flown and honor the American flag this year with the same level of reverence and respect as those Americans who have flown the American flag where no other flag had flown before.

On May 30, 2024, a jury in a New York courtroom read the verdict, convicting the former President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Trump ‘s lawyers will appeal the case and the decision will likely get overturned by a higher court. This decision should get overturned because it represents one of the biggest travesties of justice ever to come out of an American courtroom.

I call this a travesty of justice because nobody, not even the judge, knows what crime Donald Trump supposedly committed. Judge Juan M. Merchan, who oversaw the case, never required the jury to articulate the crime or even agree on what statute was broken. The way that the New York statute is written is so vague that it allows jurors to pick from a list of crimes without any common agreement about which part of the statute was violated or how it was violated. To the contrary, federal law requires jurors to agree unanimously about which part of the law was broken and how it was broken. So, Donald Trump stands on firm grounds to make his appeal.

Judge Juan M. Merchan should have recused himself from this case. In 2020 Judge Merchan made political contributions to the campaign of Joe Biden. The size of the donations does not matter. The issue is that Merchan is a financier of Donald Trump’s political opponent, and that fact alone reveals his bias as well as the need for him to have recused himself. Making matters even worse is the fact that Merchan’s daughter, Loren, is a political activist who has worked for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

The situation is no better for the New York District Attorney who prosecuted the case against Donald Trump. Alvin Bragg had campaigned on the promise that he would prosecute Donald Trump. Consequently, Bragg never set out to prosecute an alleged crime; instead, he set out to fulfill a campaign promise to persecute a man.

The trial against Donald Trump was a nothing short of a kangaroo court. For example, Judge Merchan led the jury to convict Donald Trump by issuing the jurors 55 pages of instructions and reading all 55 pages of instructions to the members of the jury…twice! Moreover, some of those instructions contained some very bad advice for making decisions in a court case.

Judge Merchan advised the jury to use bad logic. For instance, here is how judge Merchan instructed the jury in how to draw an inference: “…suppose you go to bed one night when it is not raining and when you wake up in the morning, you look out your window; you do not see rain, but you see that the street and sidewalk are wet, and that people are wearing raincoats and carrying umbrellas. Under those circumstances, it may be reasonable to infer, that is conclude, that it rained during the night.”

Judge Merchan instructed the jury to reason with a false dilemma! I say this because it could have turned out to be the case that the weatherman had forecasted rain for the day, causing people to wear raincoats and carry umbrellas, and your neighbor’s broken sprinkler head could have just finished watering the lawn five minutes ago making the grass, the street, and the sidewalk all wet. This is no small matter to consider because in Donald Trump’s case, the prosecution’s star witness, Michael Cohen, was a convicted liar and a disbarred lawyer with a vendetta against Trump and who left the jury with a strong impression of guilt for Donald Trump. Moreover, Judge Merchan had effectively shut down the testimony of Brad Smith, Trump’s expert witness on elections, who could have validated Trump’s side of the story.

History will eventually record that what happened last Thursday in that New York courtroom was a travesty of justice. Indeed, it was a very dark day in our nation’s history. What happened to Donald Trump is the kind of weaponized justice we expect to see by tyrants who reign over people in third world countries, not in the United States of America where we pride ourselves on judging people with fairness, honesty and equity. Here in Nebraska, I like to think that we set higher standards for justice. For example, our state motto is: “Equality under the Law.”

Jesus once said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,” John 15:13. I am not trying to get religious, but this is the expected principle to live by when you serve as a chaplain in the military. Of course, that principle is much easier said than done. Nevertheless, four Army chaplains once displayed this kind of love and courage during the days of WWII, so today I would like to recall their story.

The SS Dorchester had been requisitioned as a troop carrier during the Second World War. While enroute to Greenland with almost 900 troops aboard and nearing safe waters, a German U-boat successfully shot a torpedo into the engine room of the SS Dorchester in the early morning hours of February 3, 1943. Life expectancy in such frigid waters has been estimated at only 20 minutes.

Four Army chaplains who had been relegated to serve at the airfields and installations in Greenland never hesitated to put the lives of their countrymen ahead of their own. These four chaplains sacrificed their own chances of survival in order to help their fellow soldiers escape. These four chaplains distributed life preservers and helped others abandon ship. When they finally ran out of life preservers, they gave up their own and then huddled together in prayer as the ship sank and disappeared under the cold waters of the northern Atlantic Ocean. So, who were these brave men who so unselfishly sacrificed their lives that day?

The first was John P. Washington of Newark, New Jersey. Fr. Washington had been ordained as a Catholic priest on June 15, 1935, and was serving in parish ministry when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. When Washington tried to enlist in the Navy, he was denied due to poor eyesight in one eye. So, he decided to try the Army. This time he covered up his bad eye both times while reading the eye chart and the doctors were too busy to notice.

Alexander D. Goode of Washington, D.C. wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming a rabbi. After completing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Cincinnati, he became penniless student during the Great Depression and nearly quit his studies at Hebrew Union College, but managed to graduate in 1937. He, too, had been rejected by the Navy, but was picked up by the Army after Pearl Harbor.

George L. Fox of Lewiston, Pennsylvania had previously served as a medic in World War I, where his gallant service had already earned him a silver star and several purple hearts. Fox had worked as an evangelist before entering Moody Bible Institute in 1923. He sought further education at Wesleyan University and Boston University’s School of Theology until he was finally ordained as a Methodist minister on June 10, 1934. The events at Pearl Harbor, however, had drawn Fox back into active duty at the age of 42. When Fox died that day aboard the SS Dorchester he left behind a wife, a son, and a seven-year-old daughter.

Clark V. Poling of Columbus, Ohio was destined to follow his father, who had been a prominent radio evangelist and religious newspaper editor, by extending his family’s line of six generations of Christian ministers. After graduating from Yale Divinity School, he became an ordained minister in the Reformed Church of America. His father, Dr. Daniel A. Poling, had warned his son not to enlist due to the high casualty rate of chaplains in WWI. Against his father’s advice, the younger Clark decided to serve his country anyway, realizing that God was ultimately in control of his life.

I share the stories of these four chaplains with you today because they were real people and to remind you about the tremendous cost of war, the bravery of our fallen heroes, and the love of God and country which marks the souls of so many who have gone before us in order to secure our freedoms. This Memorial Day please remember that in military service all gave some, but some gave all.

One of the questions we often receive about the EPIC Option Consumption Tax concerns the two ballot initiatives. Many folks ask us, “How is the petition drive doing?” Today I am prepared to give an update and I have some very good news to report.

The EPIC Option Consumption Tax currently has two petition drives running concurrently to put two separate ballot initiatives on the ballot for the voters to decide on November 5. The first ballot initiative would eliminate all taxes other than consumption taxes and excise taxes. The second ballot initiative directs the Legislature to enact a consumption tax with a single exemption for grocery items purchased for off-premises consumption.

We began the petition drives for these two ballot initiatives on a cold winter day back in January 2023. The first individual to sign both petitions was Mr. Craig Bolz, a farmer from Lancaster County. Mr. Bolz is also the father of former Nebraska State Senator, Kate Bolz. We held a press conference to inaugurate the petition drive that day, and Mr. Bolz was the first person to ceremoniously signed both petitions.

So, what is the good news? Today I am proud to announce that the two EPIC Option Consumption Tax petition drives have successfully crossed a significant milestone. Thanks to the nearly 250 circulators we have recruited all across the State of Nebraska, we have now collected the necessary signatures from at least five percent of registered voters in 38 of Nebraska’s 93 counties as required by the Nebraska State Constitution, Article III, Section 2! Sheridan County continues to lead the way. More than 20 percent of registered voters in Sheridan County have signed our petitions! Reaching this goal is a significant accomplishment, which ought to show even our most ardent critics that Nebraskans are serious about the need for meaningful tax reform.

The days of meaningless tax shifts and slight-of-hand tactics by legislators in the Unicameral Legislature are now quickly coming to an end. Although Nebraska’s politicians often love to brag to their constituents about how they have delivered on property tax relief, the truth is that our tax system is broken, it cannot be fixed, and every attempt to fix it in recent years has failed miserably. Trying to fix our broken tax system is like putting a Band-Aid on an amputation. In order to demonstrate that these recent attempts to deliver on tax relief have failed, a person merely needs only to ask himself or herself the following question: “Did I pay more in taxes this year than I did last year?” Meaningful tax relief does not occur until a person’s overall tax burden goes down, not up.

Although the EPIC Option Consumption Tax team has passed this significant milestone of collecting signatures from at least five percent of registered voters in 38 counties, we still have some work to do. Article III, Section 2 of the Nebraska State Constitution also requires a signature total of ten percent of registered voters statewide. According to the Nebraska Secretary of State’s website there are currently 1,232,411 registered votes in Nebraska. That means that petition circulators will have to meet the minimum threshold of 123,242 signatures by July 3 in order for these ballot initiatives to be placed on the November 5 ballot. To ensure that we get enough legitimate signatures, we have set our goal at 160,000 signatures.

If you have not yet signed our petitions, if you would like more information about the EPIC Option Consumption Tax, or if you would like to join our team, then please visit our website at www.epicoption.org.

On Friday May 3, 2024 citizens concerned about Nebraska’s overly burdensome tax system packed the Warner Chamber at the Nebraska State Capitol Building in Lincoln to hear an honest debate and exchange of ideas about the EPIC Option Consumption Tax.  While we invited numerous representatives from those organizations who openly oppose the EPIC Option Consumption Tax, such as the Open Sky Institute, the State Chamber of Commerce, the League of Municipalities, the Nebraska Farm Bureau, and No New Taxes Nebraska, none of these organizations accepted our invitation to the debate.  So, instead we invited a few select citizens who oppose our plan to represent and defend the most common arguments against the EPIC Option Consumption Tax. So, today I would like to give my response to the three most common complaints we hear about the EPIC Option Consumption Tax.

The first complaint that we often hear is that the EPIC Option Consumption Tax would require a consumption tax rate of 22 percent, instead of a rate of 7.5 percent as per the Beacon Hill Institute.  We invited Dr. Ernie Goss, Nebraska’s most renown economist from Creighton University to be on the panel. Dr. Goss fielded that question and argued that the reports of 22 percent made by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and the Tax Foundation were based on erroneous assumptions about the EPIC Option Consumption Tax and are wrong.  Although Dr. Goss could not say with precision exactly what the consumption tax rate would be, he insisted that it would be much closer to 7.5 percent than the 22 percent which is being advertised by the Open Sky Institute, the State Chamber of Commerce, the League of Municipalities, and No New Taxes Nebraska.  So, both the Beacon Hill Institute, which did the only dynamic study on the EPIC Option consumption Tax, and Dr. Ernie Goss both agree that the consumption tax rate would be somewhere around 7.5 percent.

The second complaint we often hear is that the EPIC Option Consumption Tax would result in the loss of local control.  Under the EPIC Option Consumption Tax local units of government would maintain control over their budgets.  However, their budgets would be capped in the following way: Budgets would be determined by a five-year average of a government entity’s budgets plus two percent. This would require local units of government to begin living within their means.

Under the current tax system numerous government entities have the authority to raise property taxes.  These government entities with tax asking authority include local school boards, county boards, and Natural Resources Districts (NRDs). Consequently, a concerned citizen wishing to voice their opinion about their property taxes would have to attend the meetings of each of these different boards.  Moreover, the current tax system has proven to be a failure because according to the organization tax-rates.org, Nebraska ranks as the fourth highest state in the country for its median property tax rate.

A third complaint we often hear is that the EPIC Option Consumption Tax would no longer collect revenue from billionaires, such as Bill Gates, who now owns 20,000 acres of farmland across Nebraska. Because the EPIC Option Consumption Tax would eliminate property taxes altogether, it is true that Bill Gates would no longer have to pay property taxes in Nebraska.  However, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was founded to promote programs addressing sustainability and climate change.  Reducing the number of farms and ranches are some of the foundation’s core principles.  If their long-range goal is to donate these lands to non-profit organizations, then these acres would be taken off the property tax rolls and other landowners would have to make up the difference.   So, the argument that Nebraska would no longer collect revenue from billionaires is a short-sighted argument and is really based upon greed, rather than on what is best for the State of Nebraska.

One of the most important bills that I ever introduced in my career as a Nebraska State Senator was my destroyed property bill, originally LB 482. The contents of that bill were later amended into LB 512 and passed as a Christmas Tree bill back in 2019. The bill enables landowners with destroyed or damaged properties to have their valuations readjusted for property tax purposes, provided that the damage exceeds 20 percent of the property’s value during the current assessment year and the paperwork gets filed by the deadline of July 15th of the current assessment year.

No one who has had their property destroyed or damaged mid-year should have to pay property taxes based upon the assessment of their property on January 1 of that same year. So, this law makes the property tax system fair for those who may be suffering from such things as tornado, flood, or fire damage.

The timing of my destroyed property bill back in 2019 could not have been better. That year Nebraska experienced widespread flooding and many Nebraskans saw their homes and other structures get washed out by the floodwaters. Because LB 512 passed with an emergency clause, the law went into effect immediately after the governor signed it on May 30, 2019. Consequently, many landowners were able to take immediate advantage of the new law and have their destroyed or damaged properties re-valuated for property tax purposes, saving some people thousands of dollars in taxes.

We have a similar situation occurring again this year. The high winds, hail, and tornadoes which have swept across Nebraska this spring have resulted in many properties being destroyed. Consequently, landowners need to be reminded of the new law, so they can file the necessary paperwork and have their destroyed or damaged properties readjusted before the deadline of July 15. The property valuation readjustment applies only to properties that were destroyed or damaged prior to July 1.

In order to take advantage of the new destroyed or damaged property law, landowners will need to fill out and submit a Report of Destroyed Real Property, which is available on the Nebraska Department of Revenue’s website: www.revenue.nebraska.gov. Once at the website, click on “Property Assessment” and scroll down to “Forms & Calendars”. Click on “Forms,” then click on “Real Property and Personal Property”. Form 425 will be tenth form from the top of the list.

Form 425 must be filed with both the County Clerk and the Assessor/Register of Deeds, and separate forms must be filed for each parcel of destroyed real property. Additional questions should be directed to the County Clerk’s Office or the Assessor/Register of Deeds Office.

The bill that I introduced which paved the way for property owners to have their destroyed or damaged properties revaluated for property tax purposes is what I like to call, “common sense legislation.” The Unicameral Legislature passes a lot of legislation. Most of those bills never affect the average person, but the bills that make life better for Nebraskans are, by far, the most important and the most valuable.

It is my hope that many landowners with destroyed or damaged properties will take advantage of the destroyed property law this year. It is bad enough to have a home wiped out by a tornado, washed away in a flood, or burned to the ground by a wildfire. My heart and my prayers truly go out to those who have suffered such loses this year. As Nebraskans, let us be reminded to help our neighbors during times of crisis because, after all, it is the people of Nebraska who make Nebraska the Good Life.

Straight Talk From Steve…
April 29th, 2024

April 18th was the last day of the 108th Legislature and marked the end of my days as a legislator, even though my term won’t officially expire until January 5 of next year. For those who may be wondering about my future in politics, I have no plans to return to the Unicameral Legislature, except for a possible special session later this year; however, it has been a pleasure to represent the good people of Legislative District 47 for the past eight years.

I never anticipated the depth of the friendships that I have made while being a Nebraska State Senator. The comradery that State Senators share is unique. Prior to my election as a State Senator, I never imagined that I would ever agree on a bill with a north Omaha Senator or go fishing with Sen. Justin Wayne. I will go fishing with him later this summer. Although State Senators often disagree with each other in debate, filibuster each other’s bills, and introduce dilatory amendments to kill their bills, off the floor of the Legislature we care deeply for one another and those are the kinds of friends you make.

Over the course of the last eight years, I have learned not to become too emotionally tied to a bill. This year was the first time my priority bill ever made it past General File, which is only the first round of floor debate. The reason my bills never advanced was due to their significant changes to the tax code. As a State Senator, one can pour himself or herself into a bill only see it get killed on the floor of the Legislature. So, it pays to remind oneself that the battle isn’t over; there will yet be another day to fight.

I recently shared a conversation with Gov. Jim Pillen, where we talked about our work in politics. The work we do in Lincoln is important, because it is usually timely and urgent, but it is also very temporal. Most of what we do in this life does not carry over into the afterlife. The laws we make for Nebraska won’t be valid in heaven. What matters so much more is what we do that affects eternity. That is especially true when it comes to faith in Jesus Christ. So, when I delivered my farewell remarks to the members of the Legislature, I asked them what would they do with Jesus?

A person’s personal identity transcends the work he or she does for a living. Too often we allow our work or our career to define who we are, but that is not true. I was a farmer for 45 years and thought of myself as a farmer. I had to work through who I was when I retired from farming. Similarly, when I exited the Norris Chamber for the last time, I did not change. Being a State Senator is something I did, but it is not who I am. As I transition out of life as a State Senator over the course of the next eight months, I will miss being a State Senator because it will become something I have done, but it won’t define who I am.

If I will be remembered for anything I ever said as a State Senator, I imagine it will be that “Common sense is a flower that does not grow in everyone’s garden.” I like this little proverb because it so aptly describes how many of us feel about politicians.

Serving as the State Senator for Legislative District 47 has been the most demanding work I have ever done! It has also been a very rewarding experience. Helping Nebraskans solve their problems with state agencies and introducing and passing legislation that improves lives has made serving as your State Senator an honor. Thank you for electing me and providing me with such a great opportunity to serve the good folks of Western Nebraska.

Straight Talk From Steve…
April 18th, 2024

April 18th was the final day of the 108th Legislature. This was the shorter 60-day session and, save for a special session of the Legislature later this summer, this completes my tenure as a Nebraska State Senator. It has been a pleasure for me to serve the good people of Legislative District 47 for the past eight years.

When I came into the Unicameral Legislature eight years ago my number one goal was to provide the people of Nebraska with meaningful and significant property tax relief. First, I tried to reform the way agricultural lands get valuated for tax purposes by introducing a couple of bills to change Nebraska over to a production-based system. However, due to Nebraska’s varying rainfall and diverse soil and terrain, no capitalization rate could be found that would treat each part of the state fairly.

Then, a gentleman by the name of Rob Rorhbough came to visit me at the Capitol and introduced me to the idea of a consumption tax. After Sen. McDonnell of Omaha, Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings, and I listened to Mr. Rohrbough explain the consumption tax idea to us for about an hour, we were immediately sold on the idea. Nebraska’s tax system is broken. State Senators have been trying to fix our broken tax system ever since we created it back in 1967, but with no success. Ever since 1967 taxes have increased faster than the household incomes of Nebraskans and many Nebraskans are now beyond the breaking point.

Nebraska’s property tax system is a complete failure. Consider for example that the median annual property taxes for a single-family home in Nebraska is one of the highest in the nation and is higher than all of our surrounding states: Nebraska’s is $3,017, South Dakota’s is $2,794, Iowa’s is $2,512, Colorado’s is $2,430, Wyoming’s is $1,884 and Missouri’s is only $1,623. As you can see, Nebraskans pay almost twice as much money in property taxes as people living in Missouri. As a result of these high property taxes, Nebraska ranks third in the Nation for the most farm bankruptcies and tenth in the nation among states that people are leaving.

This year’s big property tax solution proposed by the Governor and approved by the Legislature’s Revenue Committee was LB 388. The bill was pulled by the introducer last Thursday. The bill failed because it did not result in meaningful and significant property tax relief. Instead, the bill raised taxes on such things as veterinary care, storage unit fees, hemp products, tobacco products, lottery tickets, skill games, soda pop, and candy.

When I ran the numbers for LB 388 on properties in Legislative District 47, the results were not good. Contrary to the projected 22 percent in property tax relief that Lee Will reported to the Nebraska Examiner, folks living in Legislative District 47 would have only received a two to three percent reduction in their property taxes. For these reasons, I voted against LB 388.

Because LB 388 failed last week, the Governor will most assuredly call the Senators back to Lincoln later this summer for a special session of the Legislature in order to address Nebraska’s ever-growing property tax problem. However, if the Governor and the chair of the Legislature’s Revenue Committee continue to write bills with these same failed tax shift policies, the results won’t be good for Nebraskans.

Nebraska needs a new tax system. As Sen. Brian Hardin of Gering said on the floor of the Legislature last Thursday, “Trying to fix our current tax system is like holding a beach ball under water.” The ball will eventually come back up and so will your taxes. Nebraska must abandon its current tax system and start over with something different and something that works. The best answer to Nebraska’s tax problems remains the EPIC Option Consumption Tax.

Sen. Steve Erdman

District 47
Room 1124
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2616
Email: serdman@leg.ne.gov
Search Senator Page:
Topics
Committee Assignments
    Appropriations
    Committee On Committees
    Rules
    Building Maintenance
Search Current Bills
Search Laws
Live Video Streaming
View video streamView live streams of floor activity and public hearings

Streaming video provided by Nebraska Public Media

Find Your Senator