When the Nebraska legislature passed twenty million dollars in property tax relief this session, much of that came at the expense of counties. Senator Colby Coash of Lincoln says that is part of an ongoing pattern.
“The legislature, and I’ve been part of it, hasn’t done a good job of pulling expenses off of the counties,” Coash says. “Every time it got tight at the state level, we’d squeeze it down to the county level.”
Coash says he heard from county leaders every year as a legislator.
“They came to me for eight years and said, ‘You’ve really got to let us loose a little bit here. Every time it gets tight at your level, we end up paying,'” Coash says. “Their source of revenue is the property tax and so they had a legitimate beef. Through my years, I did the best I could to pull some of those expenses off the county, I mean, there were state expenses we should’ve been paying a long time ago.”
Coash says counties don’t have a lot of options to increase their revenues other than property taxes.
“All the fees counties get to charge, whether it’s a marriage license, a gun permit, whatever, those are all set by state statute,” Coash says. “We weren’t even allowing counties to cover the cost of the things we make them do. We made some headway on that the last couple of years but there’s a lot to do in that area.”
Coash, who will not be returning to the Unicameral next year due to term limits, says property taxes will be an annual issue for senators many years into the future.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton