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In January I will introduce a resolution for property tax relief called the 50/50 plan. A citizen led initiative will soon start collecting the 85,000 signatures needed to ensure that the 50/50 plan appears on your ballot next year. This plan will allow property owners to receive 50 percent of that portion of their property taxes which go to fund public education as a credit or refund of their Nebraska State income taxes. The 50/50 plan will provide taxpayers with 30 percent in property tax relief statewide.
Last week Governor Ricketts criticized the 50/50 plan, calling it a “fantasy.” Gov. Ricketts criticized the 50/50 plan on KNEB News, saying the plan falls short because there is no way to pay for the refund or credit. Today, I would like to respond to the Governor’s criticism of the 50/50 plan.
Governor Ricketts erroneously believes that he can provide all property owners with property tax relief simply by reforming the way agricultural land is valued for property tax purposes. Like the Governor, I also believe we should scrap the current market based system and replace it with an income approach. However, switching to an income approach will not guarantee property tax relief for anyone. Indeed, some property owners will end up paying more in property taxes. However, the reason we should make the switch is to make the process fair, not to give people the false hope of property tax relief.
When the coalition designed the 50/50 plan last summer, they intentionally left out any specific way to pay for the plan. We understood at the time that any method we would have suggested for paying for the plan would have become the automatic target for criticism. Instead, we decided to focus like a laser on giving Nebraskans the property tax relief they desperately need and shift the burden of how to pay for it to the State Legislature. Needless to say, the right approach for paying for it would be to make cuts in the budget!
Strategies for property tax relief will never be perfect. The State does not have a revenue shortfall because they don’t tax you enough; instead, the State has a revenue shortfall because they spend too much. So, we should not allow what is imperfect to become the enemy of what is good. Property tax relief is that good thing all Nebraskans need.
As you give thanks this week for the many ways God has blessed you this year, please remember those who are less fortunate than you. Then, remember to thank God for our glorious country and our beautiful state. Benjamin Franklin once thanked God saying: “For all thy innumerable benefits; For life and reason, and the use of speech, for health and joy and every pleasant hour, my Good God, I thank Thee.”