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Opinion - Opinion
 
Groene at the Legislature: Serious about tax reliefTell North Platte what you think
 
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Mike Groene

Taxes and spending: for some in government those two terms have a complete disconnect.

On Tuesday, we debated LB 461, the Governor’s and Revenue Committee’s comprehensive tax plan. As a Revenue Committee member, I helped vote the bill out of committee with the caveat that I could only support it going forward if one of two things also happened.

Either our LB 640 to cap local property tax funding for public education advanced, or changes were made to the bill that protected present and future property tax relief. 

During debate, there was a rumor that a compromise was being cooked up, but past unfulfilled promises on legislation has taught me not to decide my vote on rumors.

I did not vote to advance the bill.

The bill had two major components. Starting next year, ag-land valuation would be lowered from 75% to 65%, which sounds great until you realize that a large majority of Lincoln County farmland is in non-equalized school districts.

The effect of the changes would cause all taxing entities to raise their tax rates to make up for the lost valuations, so the little tax relief for agriculture would have shifted to home and business owners.

There are two ways to gain property tax relief: replace local property taxes with state income and sales taxes through state aid to education, and simultaneously control local government spending. 

The other aspect of the bill was income tax cuts, another sure-fire vote getter for politicians. Small cuts would have been given, starting in 2019, by adjusting the tax brackets, but at the earliest, the larger tax breaks would have taken effect no earlier than 2020 and only if revenues increased by 3.5% or more.

I could not support a bill that gave a false impression that it was property tax relief and at the same time took away the source of future property tax relief -- increased state revenues.

A politician would have voted for LB 461 and claimed it was middle class tax relief: I am not a politician.

There was not a single farm, ranch, or educational group who supported the bill.  The proponents of LB 461 had good intentions, but the resulting bill was not good for Lincoln County.

 

NRD taxes

LB 98: a 10-year extension (tax increase) of the sunset date of a 3-cent property tax levy for over- and fully-appropriated Natural Resource Districts, which includes all of Lincoln County.

Sen. Steve Erdman and I filibustered the bill and garnered enough support to stop its advancement. During the first three hours of debate a month ago, I opposed it. I have not received correspondence since from farmers or homeowners criticizing my stance, but I continue to receive daily concerns about burdensome property taxes.

I believe a message needs to be sent to local government officials that we are serious about property tax relief. The levy is still in effect next year, giving us the interim between sessions to come up with a compromise.

What must be in the fix is a sunset extension of less than 5 years, as well as lowering the levy to take into consideration the increases in valuations. We must demand accountability through budget reporting of how the money is spent to alleviate the over use of our groundwater resources.

 

Main budget

LB 327: the almost $11 billion mainline budget bill.

The first three hours of debate were not spent on spending, but instead a small provision in the bill that would have altered which women’s health clinics could receive Nebraska’s $1.9 million share of federal Title X funding.

It is an attempt to defund clinics that perform abortions or encourage them.

I agree, I do not want any of my tax dollars funding abortions, but I do want women in Lincoln County to have easy, affordable access to preventive early health care testing. The way the bill was written would have denied a local non-profit clinic from receiving the $120,000 federal funding they received in the past.

Sen. Joni Craighead is bringing a pro-family organization supported amendment that will fix the oversight. I will support it, and maybe then we can get around to debating the budget itself.

The recent revenue forecast came in another $55 million short. We have more cuts to make in order to balance our budget, which is already proposed to contain deficit spending.

Please do not hesitate to contact our office at mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729 with any comments, questions, or concerns.


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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 5/4/2017
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