Politicians speak in code. Doublespeak is language that deliberately distorts the meanings of words. It is language which pretends to communicate something truthful or valuable, but actually misleads by making the bad seem good or the good seem bad. Doublespeak is a favorite tool of career politicians, who don’t want the public to fully understand the issues at play or to know what is really going on.
Doublespeak is the best way to describe how critics of the 35% solution often use language.
The 35% solution refers to the current ballot initiative, which would allow taxpayers to reclaim 35 % of their property tax bill in the form of a credit or refund on their Nebraska state income tax return.
Believe it or not, some politicians simply do not want to cut property taxes. Because they cannot admit their true stance on property tax relief, they try to disguise their position through doublespeak.
Critics of the 35% solution make use of doublespeak whenever they put the question to voters, “Do you want to live in a state with no future?” The very nature of the question implies a necessary doom and gloom scenario should the ballot initiative ever pass and become part of our state’s constitution. Skeptics of the 35% solution would have you believe that cutting property taxes by 35% would mean that the state would not be able to fund public schools, the University of Nebraska or even Medicaid.
You see, the question seeks to turn that which is good into that which is bad.
Upon closer analysis of the question, though, the real danger for the future of our state lies in failing to pass some kind of meaningful and significant property tax relief. The reason is that Nebraskans can no longer afford to pay such high taxes.
Nebraska now ranks second in the nation for the most number of Chapter 12 farm and ranch bankruptcies. But, it’s not just farmers and ranchers who are struggling to make ends meet. Many small business owners and laborers simply cannot sacrifice anything more for the state.
Through careful and manipulative doublespeak, the critics of the 35% solution are able to switch the tables on the voter. Through doublespeak, the critic puts the focus on the wrong group. He puts the focus on those who collect the taxes and who spend the money, rather than on those who work and pay the taxes.
Without the taxpayer the state would have no money to spend. So, shouldn’t the primary focus be on the taxpayer rather than on those state agencies that spend the tax dollars? I think so.
I have a sign posted in my office which says, “No Government can give anything to anyone that they haven’t already taken from somebody else!” Government does not create wealth; instead, it uses the wealth of its citizens in order to function, and when that burden becomes too heavy for the citizens to bear, it becomes the responsibility of the state to reduce the size of that burden.
The sky is not falling. Nebraska will continue to exist and to function normally even after we cut property taxes by 35%. The $1.4 billion dollars in property tax relief that the 35 % solution would deliver back to the property owners would not sit idle and do nothing.
Instead, this money would be injected back into our economy so that commerce would once again thrive in our state, and as purchases are made the State would collect more revenue in sales taxes.
Legislators are elected to make hard decisions. When I first became a state senator back in 2017, we experienced a budget shortfall of $1.1 million. Because our constitution requires state lawmakers to balance the budget, we had to make some hard decisions. We had to make some budgetary cuts. Nevertheless, all of our state agencies survived those cuts and continue to exist today.
However, when politicians today tell you that they are cutting the state’s budget, be wary of their doublespeak. Oftentimes, what they really mean is that they have decreased the amount of the increase. So, instead of increasing the budget by 6%, they are increasing the budget by 3% and calling it a budget cut.
The politicians in Lincoln are deathly afraid of the 35% solution. They are afraid because passing the ballot initiative for the 35% solution would require them to finally respect taxpayers and to pay attention to their plight instead of only listening to the demands of the tax spenders.
Steve Erdman represents Dist. 47 in the state legislature. Dist. 47 is west of Lincoln County.