Rural lawmakers may have leverage in property tax debate

Lobbyists, visitors, and others gather in the rotunda near the Nebraska Legislature's chamber (NTV News)

The deck may be stacked against them, but rural lawmakers may have some cards to play if they want property tax relief.

The issue continues to dominate discussions for many lawmakers.

Sen. Julie Slama of Peru said, “There's farmers that are hurting right now, every property owner in Nebraska is hurting right now because the system does not favor them, and so we have to look at how we're funding schools because that's at the base of the property tax issue.”

Sen. Dan Hughes, himself a farmer, says it's not just agriculture.

“We are hearing a lot from the homeowners in urban areas that their property taxes have shot up as well,” he said.

Hughes says senators from central and western Nebraska will need urban support if they're going to take action on taxes.

Here's how they might get it: Conservatives in Lincoln and Omaha want to continue funding for business incentives, while progressives want to fully fund Medicaid.

Hughes thinks they can support each other.

He said, “We do have some leverage, I think there's some room for compromise on all three of those issues, that maybe we can come together and tie all three of those things together and get enough votes, 33, whatever we need to get something significant.”

Hughes said 33 votes, because that’s what it takes to break a filibuster, which is what it may come down to.

Plus there’s an understanding they'll have to get money somewhere, like eliminating sales tax exemptions.

“If we're going to have some sort of property tax relief, which is a huge burden on agriculture, we're going to have to have additional revenue sources,” Hughes said.

Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard is proposing a constitutional amendment. It would be placed on the 2020 ballot, and if approved, would provide income tax credits based on property taxes paid.

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