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Groene leads filibuster of TIF for rural workforce housingTell North Platte what you think
Photo by Nebraska Unicameral
Mike Groene
Photo by Nebraska Unicameral
Sens. John Stinner, at left, and Matt Williams look perturbed during the debate.

A second filibuster by opponents of a tax increment financing bill succeeded Tuesday -- by one vote.

Legislative Bill 496, introduced by Sen. John Stinner of Gering and designated a priority by Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg, would use TIFs to fund workforce housing in first and second class cities as well as villages in Nebraska.

"We've talked about what our mission is here," Stinner said. "It's the mission that's consistent with what the governor says; he wants to grow Nebraska."

Tax increment financing, or TIF, is designed to use increased property taxes on a newly developed area to pay for streets, sidewalks and other public infrastructure associated with the development.

TIFs are often used to finance the redevelopment of blighted or substandard areas in cities where development has stalled, putting new structures in the development area, increasing property values and helping city growth.

The bill was Stinner's plan to bring more people into rural areas, but it was fought at every turn by Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte.

Groene also received help from Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson and several other senators in the filibusters. In the end, nine senators voted no.

Groene thinks TIFs are useful for redevelopment of blighted inner cities, but when used to develop housing, it will only raise property taxes, make houses people don't need and line the pockets of bankers and corporations.

Stinner read a letter during debate from the North Platte Chamber of Commerce -- in Groene's district -- supporting LB 496.

Groene responded, "I don't care," reportedly using the word "effing."

"I don't run in the same circles you did, sir," he said. "I run with the workers, people with calluses on their hands."

Groene also said his constituents are asking for property tax relief, not additional housing.

“You are giving an incentive in tough times to an industry (in which) every contractor is fully employed," he said.

Williams said that TIF helped draw four Fortune 500 companies to the Gothenburg area. He said using TIF for housing projects is intended to benefit communities, not increase profits for bankers and realtors.

“I have yet to see a case where anyone has seen any unjust enrichment from a [TIF] project,” he said.

Stinner filed a motion to invoke cloture, or cease debate and vote on the bill and two pending amendments. It failed 32-9. Thirty-three votes were needed.

It was the second filibuster effort, and it proved more successful than the first.

The first ended with a successful cloture motion, ending debate on a 33-9 vote. The cloture vote Tuesday during the second round of debate fell just one vote short of passing, 32-9, which will likely end further consideration of the bill for this legislative session.

Groene said the next day (Wednesday) that the bill would have expanded TIF by including the construction costs of private housing projects, instead of confining the TIF to infrastructure costs.

North Platte Chamber and Development Director Gary Person said Wednesday, “We work hard at trying to retain and create jobs, and we believe housing is critical to growing North Platte and LIncoln County. Housing is such a tough issue in today’s world -- with the costs. We were supportive of the bill and testified in favor of it.”

Person said the Chamber and Groene have been on the same side of some issues, but when it comes to TIF, Groene “definitely has a different point of view.”

The Unicameral Update and the North Platte Bulletin contributed to this report, which was updated Wednesday.


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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 5/17/2017
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