It might be a down budget year, but the Nebraska Farm Bureau says it will continue to press the Unicameral for property tax reform.
A projected budget deficit and calls to spend more on Corrections face state lawmakers next year.
Still, the Nebraska Farm Bureau will keep pushing for property tax cuts.
Bruce Rieker, Vice President of Government Relations for the Nebraska Farm Bureau, says farmers appreciate moves to increase funding to the property tax credit relief fund.
“Until we really get a handle on reform, the property tax credit fund is, I don’t want to say a Band-Aid, but it’s a means to help provide relief, but it is short of the reform that’s needed,” Rieker tells Nebraska Radio Network.
The Unicameral, worried about budget forecasts, has been reluctant to cut taxes. Instead, state legislators have pumped more money into the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund.
A couple of legislative sessions ago, the legislature rejected Gov. Pete Ricketts’ call to reduce the percentage at which farmland is taxed from the current 75% of market value to 65%. Lawmakers did approve his call to add $120 million dollars to the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund over the next two years, bringing its total to $408 million in the state budget. During the last session, legislators increased the fund further, including $20 million in property tax relief targeted directly to agricultural land.
Rieker says sagging state revenue reflects the downturn in the agricultural economy which sustained Nebraska through the aftermath of the 2008 recession. Rieker also argues the problems brought on by falling commodity prices only emphasize the need for property tax relief.
The Farm Bureau has been advocating a reset, trying to balance the tax revenue upon which government relies. At present, property tax provides approximately 48% of the revenue generated, with income tax at 32% and sales tax at 20%. Rieker argues that needs to be better balanced.
Meanwhile, the Farm Bureau is sounding the alarm about the farm economy. Rieker says the drop in commodity prices has prompted some bankers to inform farmers they won’t renew their loans next year.
“There are going to be a lot of producers that may not be there next year. Somebody else may be farming that land, but that’s going to be hard on the communities.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]