With agriculture "on its knees," Nebraska lawmakers introduce tax proposals

Sen Steve Erdman of Bayard is one of the leading voices for property tax relief in Nebraska (NTV News)

A Nebraska lawmaker drops a bill calling for big–time property tax relief.

“Property taxes is number one, my number one issue,” Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard said.

For state senators who make their living in agriculture, no issue is more important than tax relief.

“Not only agriculture's paying too many property taxes, your house is too high,” Erdman said.

John Hansen of Nebraska Farmers Union says the state has shifted about $1 billion in school funding a year, away from income and sales to property taxes.

“Our tax system is now cross the center line, cross the other lane and now in the ditch,” he said.

With five years of declining farm income, Senator Dan Hughes says Nebraska can’t kill the golden goose, something he’s emphasizing to metro area senators.

“Just to make sure they understand the largest industry in the state of Nebraska is on its knees and property taxes is contributing to that,” Hughes said.

As bills are introduced, Erdman is up first with a proposal he calls the 50-50 plan.

Here’s how it works; If your local property tax bill is $1000, roughly $600 goes to your local school.

Erdman’s plan would create a 50 percent credit, applied towards income taxes.

In his example, that would be $300 back.

Governor Ricketts calls it a fantasy, saying it’ll cost a billion dollars and take money from important services.

Senator Curt Friesen, a Hamilton County corn grower doesn’t go that far, but has doubts.

He said of Erdman’s bill, “If at the end of the day that's the last thing standing, I'll support it. It wouldn't be my first choice how we go about fixing our property tax situation. It does nothing with how we fund K-12 schools, which is something I've always said we need to address.”

Friesen would like to work on the school funding side of the equation.

The governor has previously tried to change the way farm land is valued for tax purposes.

Erdman says if another proposal can save taxpayers a billion dollars, he’ll support it.

If not, he wants voters to decide by putting it on the ballot through the initiative process.

He said, “We hope that we get those signatures soon.”

The wild card is Governor Pete Ricketts. We’ll get a better idea next week, when he outlines his proposals for the year.

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