On March 24, the Nebraska Legislature recessed for almost four months because of the Chinese virus. This has never happened before.

We reconvened Monday, July 20 to finish the last 17 days of the session. Nebraska’s constitution requires the legislature to meet for 60 days in even numbered years.

Two bills are generating a lot of interest.

LB 1106 is a tax bill from the speaker, Sen. Scheer. The Revenue Committee and Sen. Lou Ann Linehan have introduced amendments to make it a property tax relief bill. I support those amendments.

I have been through the muck with Sen. Linehan fighting for tax reform legislation for years. This package would be a good place to start driving down our crippling property taxes. They are too high because the Legislature has made public education funding too heavily reliant on property taxes.

We are 47th in the nation on state aid to schools. Forty-six other state legislatures provide more state funding to public schools than Nebraska does. Consequently, our 244 school districts use their authority to levy and spend property taxes to make up the difference.

At the end of the debate, Sen. Linehan could not show the speaker 33 votes needed to continue. LB 1106 is now in a holding pattern. It will not be put back on the agenda until the Speaker is convinced it has 33 votes.

LB 720 is a business incentives bill from Sen. Kolterman. It provides economic incentives in the form of targeted tax breaks to attract and keep businesses and jobs in Nebraska. Most of the hundreds of millions of dollars in this bill will likely stay in Lincoln and Omaha, but there are a few programs that will benefit agricultural producers and other businesses in rural Nebraska.

The state Chamber of Commerce argues that incentives for Nebraska businesses are needed because we have some of the highest taxes in the country, certainly the highest of any of our neighbors in the Great Plains. That’s a fact. LB 720 didn’t have 33 supporters either, so it’s in the same boat with LB 1106.

Neither measure has the votes to advance alone. This has created a situation where one bill is likely to be amended into the other and made into a package that offers both kinds of tax relief. The thinking is that bundling them together will make these bills easier to stomach for those who have reservations about one or the other. There is a lot of wrangling going on behind the scenes right now.

I think we still have a chance to pass something to reduce property taxes. The speaker has said we will have a public vote on property tax relief. We owe that and much more to the taxpayers.

I believe that a vote on the record is the most powerful motivator there is to get a senator to do the right thing. We will see where the body stands on this important issue when Nebraskans can see how their senator voted.

 

Tom Brewer represents Dist. 43 — most of the Sandhills — in the state legislature. Contact his office with any comments, questions, or concerns. Email tbrewer@leg.ne.gov, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1423, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call (402) 471-2628.