NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. 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

Straight Talk From Steve…

January 12th, 2018

 

LB829 is the number assigned to my, Sen. Steve Erdman’s, property tax relief bill. LB829 will allow tax payers to get a 50 percent credit or refund on that portion of their property tax bill which goes to fund public education when they file their Nebraska state income taxes. For most taxpayers, LB829 will result in a 30 percent reduction in their property taxes.

LB829 is necessary because property taxes in Nebraska have been running out of control. According to the Department of Numbers, Nebraska’s real median household income remained stagnant near $57,000 between the years of 2005-2016. However, the per capita property tax burden rose from $1,150 in 2004 to $1,550 in 2011. That’s a difference of $400 or 25 percent within a time span of only seven years while household incomes remained steady. This year the median property tax bill in Nebraska is $2,164.

In recent years rural areas of our State have been hit particularly hard. For example, I live in Morrill County and according to the Nebraska Department of Property Assessment & Taxation the total amount of property taxes levied in Morrill County in 2006 was $7,390,027, but by 2016 that number had climbed to $17,569,558. That’s an average increase of more than one million dollars per year in a county with only 5,042 residents, according to the 2010 Census. So, property taxes have been rising at an alarming rate while median household incomes have remained stagnant.

Recently, an editorial appeared in the Omaha World Herald challenging the constitutionality of LB829. The editorial criticized my bill by claiming that the Nebraska Constitution gives no authority to the Legislature “to commute taxes or release taxpayers from their duty to pay taxes.” But, this criticism of LB829 is wrong.

The proposition that the Legislature lacks the authority to release taxpayers from their duty to pay taxes ignores what LB829 actually says. LB829 does not release taxpayers from paying their property taxes; all taxpayers will pay their property taxes the same as before. What LB829 does, however, is offer a credit or a refund to taxpayers on a portion of their property taxes which goes to fund public education. So, I welcome my opposition to challenge my bill in court.

The Legislature has the power to change the way people get taxed. If the assertion made by these editors of the Omaha World Herald was ever deemed to be true, then wouldn’t the TIF laws all be declared unconstitutional? Furthermore, if this criticism of my bill was ever sustained by the courts, then there would be no recourse for the Legislature to ever get rid of a bad tax.

Contrary to the editorial, I believe the Legislature has the authority to correct these kinds of wrongs. I also believe that the citizens of our State form our State’s Second Legislative House. As our State’s Second Legislative House, the citizens have the right to decide for themselves how they should get taxed through a provision made in the Nebraska State Constitution known as the citizen led initiative. This year you will have the opportunity to sign our petition to put this measure on the November ballot.

The editorial in the Omaha World Herald went on to challenge LB829 again, but this time it did so on the grounds of violating “the Constitution’s equal protection and due process provisions.” The editorial criticized LB829 because only those who file a Nebraska State income tax return would be able to benefit from the income tax credit or refund offered by the bill. But this criticism, too, is wrong.

This second criticism lodged against LB829 ignores the fact that all laws discriminate to some degree. For instance, speed limit laws discriminate against speeders as well as against those who don’t own automobiles. Just as our speed limit laws do not obligate the State to provide motorists with vehicles, so also my tax relief bill is not obligated to provide property tax relief for those who do not file a Nebraska State income tax return.

The truth about the 14th Amendment is that the Equal Protection Clause simply requires lawmakers to provide a good reason or a rationale for the law being proposed. Consequently, the justification I am proposing for LB829 is that property taxes have been rising at a much faster pace than average household incomes. The burden of continuously rising property taxes has now become unbearable for far too many property owners, and I believe that is ample justification for the Legislature to pass my bill.

Here is a link to the bill:  LB 829

Straight Talk From Steve…

January 8th, 2018

One bill I believe Nebraska needs is LB611. LB611 is a carry-over bill from last year. Last year the bill advanced out of the Appropriations Committee, where it also became the committee’s priority bill. The bill currently sits on General File.

LB611 would require annual reporting of federal funds received by state agencies participating in the State’s budgeting process. The report would require every State agency to create two operating plans; the first would go into effect once federal receipts drop by 10 percent and the second would be enacted once they drop by 25 percent. This kind of reporting is necessary so that the executive and legislative branches of the State government would be prepared to act in the best interests of Nebraskans should federal funding ever be reduced.

Because our country’s national debt has now surpassed $20,600,000,000, I believe this is now the next fiscally responsible step for our State to take. Because our national debt now surpasses our gross GDP, there are no longer any guarantees about the future status of federal grant monies.

Federal grants almost always come with strings attached. Whenever the federal government turns off the money spigot, the states are left holding the hose. So, federal grants put the State at the mercy of the federal government, where we are tied to their inconsistent whims.

Federal grants come with the potential to put the State into a spending crisis. In addition, states remain bound by the unintended consequences and extra costs associated with accepting federal dollars.

Besides suddenly turning off the money spigot, federal grants often incentivize unnecessary spending at the state and local level. Because some people view these federal grants as “free” money, it encourages impulsive and unchecked spending. Making matters worse, states are often unable to track how these federal dollars get spent.

LB611 would provide state officials with the opportunity to see where all of their federal grant monies go. LB611 would mandate an audit of all federal funds in the State, including a report of all the strings which are attached to these federal grants.

LB611 would also allow state officials to measure the impact of a future spending crisis. The bill would require a risk assessment to identify potential vulnerabilities so that state officials may make better decisions and plans about what to do in the event of a reduction in federal funds.

More than 30 percent of Nebraska’s budget is currently being funded by federal grants. 91 percent of Nebraska’s Labor Department, for example, is funded by federal grants, while 85 percent of Nebraska’s military spending comes from federal dollars. Because I sit on the HHS committee and the Education committee, it is important to report that $2.7 billion of the Department of Health and Human Services comes from federal grants, and $580 million of the University of Nebraska’s budget comes from federal grants.

The bottom line is that LB611 will help to ensure that Nebraska would be protected against Washington’s next federal funding crisis.

Straight Talk From Steve…

January 4th, 2018

Happy New Year and welcome to 2018! The second session of the 105th Nebraska Legislature will commence on January 3. So, this week I want to offer an update on some of the bills I have been working on and will introduce this year.

The first bill I will introduce will be the property tax relief bill I promised to introduce in a press conference I held last May after the closing of the first session of the 105th Nebraska Legislature. My Property Tax Relief Act will give Nebraska taxpayers a 30% reduction in their property taxes. According to The Hightower Report, Nebraska now ranks as the fourth highest state in the union for property taxes, and we are second only to Illinois when it comes to combined taxes. Therefore, the best action the Nebraska Legislature can bring to the State this year is some much needed property tax relief. To ensure that this measure appears on your ballot in November we will begin collecting signatures for a citizen led initiative starting this year.

The second bill I will introduce is another agricultural land valuation reform bill. Last year I introduced LB 602, which stalled in the Revenue Committee. However, I have improved upon that bill. So, this year I will introduce an even better bill for agricultural land valuation reform. The way agricultural land currently gets valuated for property tax purposes is very unfair. My bill will change agricultural land valuations from the current market based system to a new and improved productivity method.

The third bill I will introduce is a destroyed property tax bill. The late spring tornadoes of 2017 inspired me to write this bill. When a property owner’s house or buildings gets destroyed by a natural disaster, it does not seem right that the property owner should have to pay property taxes for as long as the house or buildings remain unlivable. Therefore, my bill will adjust the property taxes of a destroyed property to cover only those dates during the year that the property is functional or livable.

As you know, I serve on the Health and Human Services Committee. This year the HHS Committee will continue to make improvements in the services offered by the three managed care organizations which comprise Heritage Health. In addition, the HHS Committee will also be looking into recent sexual abuse allegations with children who are wards of the State and who are in our foster care system.

I also serve on the Education Committee. The State Education Board recently lowered standardized test scores for our public teachers. By lowering the standards for public school teachers, are we also lowering the quality of education for our students?

Straight Talk From Steve…

December 15th, 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, I sit by the fire with pen and paper in hand, reflecting on all that has transpired since I first took office back in January 2017. It has truly been an honor and a privilege to represent the good people of District 47 in the Nebraska Legislature. So, I thank you for providing me with this very exciting and wonderful adventure in Nebraska politics.

Nebraska really is the good life. So, I went to Lincoln with the understanding that my job is to somehow make the good life even better. This is no easy task when State revenues have been in decline. Nevertheless, I have communicated my vision for how to accomplish this task every week through these newspaper articles I write. I trust you have enjoyed reading therm.
The most important factor in shaping my vision for Nebraska’s future is you. I appreciate the way so many of you have shared your thoughts, your concerns, and your ideas with me this past year. I hope our conversations will continue. It amazes me to see how deeply so many folks living in the Panhandle care about what happens 400 miles away in a Capitol City far, far away.

This past year, I fought vigorously in the Legislature to provide all Nebraskans with agricultural land valuation reform. LB 602 was the most important bill I introduced this year, and this was strongly reflected by the positive support I received in the public hearing. So, I will continue to fight for the kind of agricultural land valuation reform which makes good sense for our farmers and ranchers.

Going forward, I plan to take up a new cause. I will fight for property tax relief. As I have stated so many times before, I will introduce a bill to give property owners back half of what they pay in property taxes for education. If I cannot successfully push the 50/50 plan through the Legislature, a citizen led initiative should ensure that the measure gets placed on the ballot for a public vote in November 2018.

In many ways, this is the calm before the storm. These days I am busily getting ready for the next legislative session, which will begin on January 3, 2018. For this reason, I will not submit a newspaper article for next week’s newspaper. Nevertheless, I will pick up right where I left off as soon as the New Year arrives. Thank you for reading my articles, and may God bless your plans for the year ahead.

Now we must pause, for we are about to enter one of the holiest times of the year. In a few days, we will celebrate the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. The baby who was born so long ago in a manger, came only to die as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. This is the true meaning of Christmas, and I invite you to join me in celebrating this most precious and joyous event in human history. Merry Christmas!

Straight Talk From Steve…

December 11th, 2017

 

All I want for Christmas is property tax relief!

Nebraskans pay too much in property taxes. According to the Tax Foundation, Nebraskans pay the seventh highest property taxes in the nation. Nebraskans pay 1.65 percent of their home’s value in property taxes every year. The best state in the country for property taxes is Hawaii, where homeowners pay only 0.28 percent of their home’s value. Most importantly, though, we pay more in property taxes than any of our neighboring states. In Wyoming, for example, homeowners pay only 0.51 percent and in Colorado homeowners pay only 0.59 percent.

Nebraskans pay too much in combined state and local taxes as well! According to John R. Bartle, Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Community Service at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, Nebraska’s combined state and local revenues collected per capita continue to be higher than the national average as well as higher than all the other states in the West North Central region of the country.

So, why are property taxes in Nebraska so high? I have long maintained that Nebraska does not have a revenue problem; instead, we have a spending problem. So, the primary culprit is how we spend our hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

One of the items we spend a lot of money on is education. Among the 50 states, Nebraska ranks 17th in the nation in per pupil spending, according to the website, “Governing.” In 2014 (the latest year with statistics) Nebraska spent $11,726 per pupil in K-12 education. By way of comparison, Utah spent only $6,500 per pupil. Most importantly, though, Nebraska’s per pupil spending was higher than in all of our neighboring states, except Wyoming. South Dakota, for example, spent only $8,881 per pupil and Colorado spent only $8,985 per pupil. Nebraska’s K-12 public schools are over reliant upon property taxes, receiving 49 percent of their funding from property taxes compared to the national average of only 29 percent. Worst in the State is the Adams Central School District, which receives 83 percent of its funding from property taxes.

Another reason our property taxes are so high is due to tax increment financing (TIF). When TIF monies are abused for economic development, the result is lost revenues appropriated for local expenses. Property taxes collected from TIF financed properties are often designated for non-local expenditures, and the result is that other property owners have to make up the difference in lost revenues.

Another reason our property taxes are out of control is due to too many tax exemptions. For instance, estimates for the Nebraska Advantage Act show that by the end of 2017 businesses will have received $295,000,000 in tax credits, while in 2018 they will receive $358,000,000. For the year 2020 estimates for tax credits from the Nebraska Advantage Act are projected to reach $500,000,000. Without a way to measure the results of these kinds of tax credits, the burden may soon become unbearable for the State.

Some businesses simply abuse their tax exemptions. Perhaps, the worst case of abusing a property tax exemption came when Goodwill Omaha claimed an exemption as a non-profit business while paying their executives six figure salaries but subjecting their disabled workers to subminimum pay. Because Goodwill Omaha was able to get away with claiming non-profit status, last year the city of Omaha lost somewhere between $300,000 – $400,000 in property tax revenues.

For these reasons, and more, in January I will introduce the 50/50 plan as a bill for property tax relief. The 50/50 plan will allow property owners to receive half of that portion of their property taxes which go to fund public education as a credit or refund on their Nebraska State income tax return. The Liberal approach for how to pay for the 50/50 will be to raise your sales taxes and income taxes, but the conservative approach will be to make cuts in the State’s budget. When you consider that Nebraska has 629.6 full-time government employees for every 10,000 people compared to the national average of only 537.6, it is not difficult to imagine ways we can pay for the 50/50 plan without having to raise your income taxes or sales taxes.
Merry Christmas!

Straight Talk From Steve…

December 1st, 2017

LB 496 is a bill which would expand the definition of redevelopment projects to include the new construction of workforce housing. By expanding the definition, the new development of workforce housing would be eligible for tax increment financing (TIF). Last year Sen. Friesen (LD34), Sen. Groene (LD42), and I, Sen. Erdman (LD47) led a successful filibuster against the bill.

LB 496 is not dead, though. The bill will come up again for a vote on the floor of the Legislature sometime next year. Last week, Sen. Stinner of Scottsbluff reaffirmed his commitment to the bill, saying, “I am determined to pass legislation that allows the use of tax increment financing…for workforce housing in rural Nebraska.”

As I did last year, I will continue to oppose LB 496. I will oppose the bill because it defies the original intention of TIF. In 1978 Nebraska voters approved TIF for the purpose of urban renewal, and Article VIII, Section 12 was added to our State’s Constitution.

TIF was never intended to be used for economic development. As the Nebraska State Constitution states, TIF was created: “For the purpose of rehabilitating, acquiring, or redeveloping substandard and blighted property in a redevelopment project…” So, TIF monies were never intended to be used for new construction on undeveloped land; instead, TIF is supposed to be used only for the redevelopment of substandard and blighted properties.

TIF was never intended to fund workforce housing projects. Instead, TIF was created for the purpose of renovating old dilapidated buildings in urban areas. In fact, at least 50 percent of an eligible building is supposed to have existed within the city limits for 40 years prior to the start of the renovation project. Instead of being used for urban renewal, today TIF monies are being abused for economic development, and that is the real purpose behind LB 496.

TIF eligible properties are supposed to pass the “but for” test, meaning that the rehabilitation project would never occur ‘but for’ TIF. So, the construction of housing developments, whether they be workforce housing or not, ought to be subjected to the “but for” test. But, workforce housing cannot pass the “but for” test; instead, workforce housing can be built without using TIF financing. Therefore, workforce housing ought to be subjected to the regular forces of our free-market economy. When TIF monies are used to fund these kinds of workforce housing projects, it upsets the natural forces of competition in our free-market economy. Once TIF monies become freely available, contractors quickly realize that the only way they can compete in the marketplace is to finance their projects through TIF.

Property taxes are distributed differently under TIF. When a building project is financed through TIF, the property taxes collected on the new construction will not be distributed to local units of government for up to 15 years or until the bond is paid back with interest. This means less money for schools, counties, cities, etc. Moreover, property taxes collected from homes built with TIF monies, do not necessarily go to fund local needs. Such was the case with homeowners in the Northbank Preserve in north Lincoln, whose property tax dollars were designated exclusively for sewer and water lines. In another case, TIF home owners in Omaha had to sign a document stating they could never protest the valuations of their homes.

TIF is easily abused. Because there are no teeth in the laws nor oversight to ensure that TIF monies are used appropriately, communities have been abusing TIF monies for years. For instance, some of Omaha’s nicest neighborhoods have been targeted for being “blighted and substandard” in order to get TIF financing, and the city of Omaha recently used TIF monies to solve a traffic problem caused by the TD Ameritrade project in the downtown area.

Going forward, my goal will be to restore TIF to its original purpose. I believe TIF should be used exclusively for urban renewal. Therefore, further clarification may be needed in the law to define what actually constitutes “blighted” and “substandard” properties, consequences may need to be added to the law to discourage the abuses of TIF, and better oversight may be needed to govern the appropriate application of TIF. The bottom line, though, is that TIF was never intended to be used as a tool for economic development.

Image result for Tax increment financing

Straight Talk From Steve…

November 22nd, 2017

On Thursday Nov. 16 Sen. Brewer (LD43), Sen. Halloran (LD33), and I, Sen. Steve Erdman (LD47), had a two hour meeting with University of Nebraska President, Hank Bounds, and Chancellor, Ronnie Green. During that meeting we reminded these two University administrators that the University of Nebraska is a land grant university. Because the University of Nebraska is a land grant university, its values ought to reflect the same values as the people living in the State. This cannot be the case when conservative students are being harassed on campus by University professors.

After they denied that conservative students were being harassed on the University’s campus, we showed them a litany of e-mails we had received from students and former students alike, who had been harassed, censored, and shouted down in class. Out of all the e-mails which came in, though, the one Sen. Brewer received from UNL English Professor Fran Kaye was the worst. Professor Kaye insulted Sen. Brewer by calling him a fool in the Lakota language. This kind of behavior is the very thing we hope to put an end to at the University of Nebraska. However, even after hearing the content of Kaye’s e-mail, neither Hank Bounds nor Ronnie Green would admitted to us that the University of Nebraska has a problem with hostility towards conservatives.

The false narrative they had constructed finally came crashing down like a house of cards the very next day. A conservative organization, known as Conservative Review, had filed a request for the emails of these University administrators through the Freedom of Information Act. Although they fought the release of the e-mails by citing “the extensive nature of the e-mails,” Hank Bounds decided to act preemptively instead. At 4:53 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 17 I received his e-mail. Those e-mails revealed the truth about what was really go on at the University of Nebraska.

On Aug. 31 emeritus Senior Vice Chancellor, Ellen Weissinger, A 40-year veteran faculty member of the University, had written the following words to Vice Chancellor, Donde Plowman: “This will pass. But the real issue is we’ve got to do more to advance civility on campus. And frankly campuses have to become more tolerant and welcoming to conservative students and faculty. This has worried me for years. I don’t think it is ‘safe’ to be conservative on our campus. Too many faculty espouse their personal political views as gospel in cases where there [sic] views have no relevance.” So, university administrators had known about this e-mail since Aug. 31, yet they continued to tell the public that no such problem exists at the University of Nebraska.

Also revealed in the e-mails, news director and University spokesman, Steve Smith had advised university administrators to spin the Turning Point USA incident in order to counter the right wing narrative. He suggested that the university use surrogates to write op-eds for the Omaha World Herald and the Lincoln Journal Star newspapers in order “to start peeling away at the right wing’s central narrative that has unfortunately been parroted by the mainstream media.” Both Steve Smith and chief communication and marketing officer, Teresa Paulsen, resigned from office the same day those e-mails were released.

The problem of censoring free speech at the University of Nebraska can no longer be ignored. I have recommended and will continue to recommend that NU administrators use the free services provided by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) to help them re-write their free-speech policies. FIRE is an objective, non-profit, third party organization which has helped several universities become safe havens for those with differing points of view.

On Nov. 21 a misleading headline appeared on a story in the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper: “Firing UNL lecturer marks an abrupt change of course for administrators.” Such a headline would naturally lead any casual reader of the newspaper to conclude that Courtney Lawton has, indeed, been fired, but she has not! University administrators have only removed her from her lecturing duties at UNL. Lawton will remain on the payroll until her contract expires in May 2018. Lawton has been teaching English at UNL since 2012, and her doctoral program maintains a five year timeline. So, she may be eligible to graduate at the same time her contract expires. To me, this is unacceptable. If you agree, then I encourage you to contact NU Regent Bob Phares and let him know.

If you have personally felt that the culture at the University of Nebraska has been unwelcoming to your beliefs or to your right to freely express your point of view, then I urge you to contact the University of Nebraska Board of Regents and share your concerns. For everyone living in Western Nebraska, your Regent is Bob Phares, and he can be contacted at (308) 532-3180 or bphares@nebraska.edu.

The University of Nebraska is our university. Our tax dollars substantially fund it. So, the University of Nebraska should reflect and respect the beliefs and values of all Nebraskans. I want our flagship university to become a champion for free speech, a safe place for conservative students, and a model for all other universities to follow.

 

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Professor Amanda Gailey.

Straight Talk From Steve…

November 20th, 2017

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.”

Straight Talk From Steve…

November 13th, 2017

The Nebraska Forecasting Advisory Board meets periodically to forecast (or guess) how much money they think will be coming into the State’s general fund. Lawmakers use these projections to craft the State’s biennial budget. On October 27 the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board met at the State Capitol and voted to lower its revenue projections. This is not good news for our State.

The revenue projections were lowered because the board members believe that individual incomes are decreasing, not increasing. Revenue collected from individual income taxes makes up more than 50% of the State’s general fund.

For the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the board projected that income tax receipts would fall short by $115 million. So, the board revised the total projected revenue receipts for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, lowering them to $4.5 billion, which is a decrease of $100 million.

The board also projected that income tax receipts for the 2018-2019 fiscal year would fall short by $125 million. So, they revised the projected total revenue receipts for the 2018-2019 fiscal year to $4.7 billion, which is a decrease of $123 million.

These revised forecasts mean that the projected general fund financial status is actually $194.4 million short of the minimum statutory cash reserve. Last year I proposed my own budgetary fix to the problem, which received 19 votes, and in May I said the board’s forecasts were too generous and that we needed to cut the budget by another $250 million. Regardless, lawmakers will be forced to make these additional cuts to the budget come January.

Because revenues are projected to be down, the Legislature won’t be passing any bills next year which come with a fiscal note. Instead, lawmakers will be forced to look for ways to cut spending from the State’s biennial budget. The State has been in this type of revenue shortfall before and we worked our way out it. We can, and we will work our way out of it again.

Straight Talk From Steve…

November 6th, 2017

I appreciate the way so many of you read my newspaper articles.

I’ve been busy these past few months trying to write legislation I hope will be most beneficial for the folks living in the Panhandle as well as for all those living in Nebraska. Today, I would like to update you on what I have been working on.

My first order of business has been to deliver on property tax relief. Over the summer I met with a coalition of Senators, farm groups, and concerned citizens to put together a legislative resolution for property tax relief. The plan we came up with is called the 50/50 plan, and soon we will be collecting signatures for a citizen led initiative to ensure that this measure appears on your ballot next year. The 50/50 plan will allow property owners to declare half of that portion of their property taxes which pays for education as a credit or refund on their State income taxes.

I also want to fix the way destroyed property gets valued for property tax purposes. Currently, the value of a piece of property on January 1 determines its value for property tax purposes for the remainder of the year. But, what if your house burns down on January 2? My bill will give the Board of Equalization the authority to prorate a parcel’s valuation to the date of its destruction. A property owner should not have to pay a full year’s worth of taxes on property which was destroyed midyear.

Besides property tax relief, I have also been working to fix the way agricultural land gets valued for property tax purposes. Last year I introduced LB602, which was designed to change the method of valuation from the current market based system to an income approach. Although my bill never made it out of committee, the Revenue Committee combined various elements from my bill into LB461. However, LB461 in its current form does not solve the primary problems associated with agricultural land valuations. Consequently, I have been working to fix LB461 through the amendment process.

Finally, a piece of legislation I hope to recommend for the Consent Calendar is a bill which would raise the rate of pay for gas commissioners from $50 per meeting to $500 per meeting with an annual cap set at $6,000. The rate of $50 per meeting was set back in 1950 and has never been changed. Because gas commissioners get paid by the oil companies, the raise in pay would have no bearing on the State’s biennial budget. My bill would also allow the director to recommend any future pay increases. The way I see it, $50 per day amounts to charity work, so it is time to give these gas commissioners a well-deserved raise.

Finally, in a few days we will be formally remembering and celebrating our veterans. Personally, I believe we should honor our veterans all 365 days of the year. The reason why we should honor veterans all year long relates to the cost of being a veteran. When it comes to our veterans, we must never forget the slogan that “All gave some, and some gave all.”

Sen. Steve Erdman

District 47
Room #1529
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2616
Email: serdman@leg.ne.gov
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