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Last week was a very busy week for me at the Capitol. On Monday the petition drive for the property tax relief ballot measure was launched. The petition drive will put onto the November ballot the same measure as my legislative bill, LB 829. The ballot measure would direct the Department of Revenue to give Nebraska property taxpayers up to 30 percent off their property taxes in the form of a credit or refund.
Last fall I received a passionate phone call from a Palmyra farmer. He pressed me to deliver on property tax relief. I told him I was working on a bill. He then proceeded to tell me how his daughter is also a State Senator at the Capitol, but she would not listen to him talk about the need for property tax relief. His daughter is Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln. After I told him about the petition drive, he asked me if he could be the first one to sign a petition. So, Mr. Craig Bolz of Palmyra became the first person to sign a petition for property tax relief in Lincoln.
Mr. Trent Fellers of Lincoln, who is the executive director of Reform for Nebraska’s Future, heads the committee which oversees the petition drive. Mr. Fellers has done an excellent job of fundraising, and he has hired the Lincoln Strategy Group out of Arizona to manage the petition drive. This is the same organization which managed the petition drive to reinstate the death penalty in Nebraska. Altogether we need to collect 85,000 legitimate signatures. These signatures must comprise five percent of voters from at least 35 different counties, and the petitions must be submitted by July 5 in order to get the measure on the November ballot. If you would like to donate time or money to our cause, or if you would like to see how much money you could save, then please visit http://www.yestopropertytaxrelief.com.
On Thursday a public hearing was held on my bill to raise the rate of pay for gas commissioners. The hearing for LB 713 was held in the Natural Resources Committee, instead of the Revenue Committee or the Appropriations Committee, because gas commissioners do not get paid out of the state’s General Fund. Instead, the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s operational costs are paid by the conservation tax proceeds collected by the Nebraska Department of Revenue from a tax assessed on the value of all oil and gas produced in the state.
Gas commissioners have never received a pay raise. The current rate of pay for gas commissioners is $50 per meeting with a cap set at $2,000 per year, which was set back in 1959. Therefore, LB 713 will raise their pay to $500 per meeting with a cap set at $6,000 per year. According to the website http://www.dollartimes.com $50 in 1959 is worth $426.51 today, so $500 per meeting seems liked a reasonable amount to me.
Finally, on Friday a public hearing was held on my agricultural land valuation reform bill, LB 1100. Because the bill I introduced last year stalled in the Revenue Committee, I decided to introduce an even better bill this year. LB 1100 will change the method for valuating agricultural land from the current market based system to a productivity method. LB 1100 would make agricultural land valuations fair, objective, and transparent.