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The second session of the 105th Legislature is now over. Overall, very little meaningful legislation got passed this year. The Legislature could not agree to reduce your property taxes, to reform the way agricultural land gets valuated for tax purposes, to call for an Article V Convention of the States, or to secure free speech for our students at the University of Nebraska. In my estimation, this year’s legislative session was essentially a wash.
Instead of passing fiscally responsible legislation for the State, the Nebraska State Legislature passed LB873, a bill that will create more land banks, which will only increase your property taxes. A land bank is a public authority created to hold, manage and develop properties. The Legislature also passed LB496, a bill to increase Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for the building of workforce housing. LB496 will also increase your property taxes.
In a last ditch effort to get property tax relief, 13 State Senators signed a letter and sent it to John Gale, our Secretary of State, calling for a special session of the Legislature in order to address the subject of property tax relief. Only ten Senators were needed to sign the letter, but 33 Senators will have to express their favor for a special session in order for it to happen. The deadline for the Senators to respond is April 23. Of no surprise to me, Governor Ricketts is not in favor of calling for a special session of this kind.
On a much more positive note, the petition drive to put a measure for property tax relief that is similar to my bill, LB829, on the November ballot is progressing very well. The Lincoln Strategy Group, the company Trent Fellers hired to collect the signatures for the ballot initiative, has reported that the task of collecting signatures for the petition drive has been easier than when they collected signatures to re-instate the death penalty. Therefore, I am confident that we will get enough signatures to meet the July 5 deadline and to put this measure on the November ballot.
The fact that we’ve had to resort to a petition drive in order to get meaningful and substantial property tax relief for all Nebraskans needs to be underscored. Meaningful and substantial property tax relief is the number one issue that Nebraskans care about and it is an issue which has united both urban and rural citizens alike in our state. Unfortunately, the majority of the Senators who comprise our State Legislature and our Governor do not understand this desperate need for meaningful and substantial property tax relief nor do they agree that this should have been the number one priority for the Legislature this year.
I have taken my service to the constituents of Legislative District 47 and to all Nebraskans very seriously. I am very disappointed that the Legislature has failed to deliver on property tax relief. This issue continues to weigh heavily upon my heart, especially when I talk with constituents and cannot report that we have fixed the problem. Nothing is more important to me than solving the problem of property tax relief. However, there remains hope for the future.
The citizens of the State of Nebraska comprise our State’s second legislative House. When the Legislature fails to deliver the kind of legislation Nebraskans need most, it becomes incumbent upon the people of the State to act and to assert their own will. Therefore, I want to encourage all of my readers to sign the petition and to vote for property tax relief in the November election.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your State Senator.