A state senator attempting to repeal the local option sales tax falls short of the votes needed; then issues a thinly veiled threat.
The votes appeared to be there Thursday.
Sen. Ernie Chambers moved to amend LB 308 to incorporate a repeal of the local option sales tax into the measure seeking to adjust how the federal alternative minimum tax is applied in Nebraska.
Chambers secured 24 votes, but lacked the 25th needed to approve his amendment. That 25th vote seemed assured since a supporter wasn’t in the legislative chamber on Thursday.
Things changed though on Monday.
Only Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege announced he no longer favored repeal, stating he saw no risk in giving cities the authority to tax themselves.
“If they make a mistake in implementing it, they suffer the consequences,” Carlson told colleagues after announcing he would switch his vote. “I don’t think Big Brother at the state level should decide this.”
No other senators announced they would switch, but they did.
A motion to reconsider the vote taken last week fell three votes short this time, 22-25 with two senators not voting.
Chambers blamed the lobbying of the League of Nebraska Municipalities over the weekend.
“And we’re going to see what happens the rest of the session,” Chambers stated during floor debate. “I’m not going to give warning. I’m not going to give notice. I’m just going to do whatever seems the right thing for me to do.”
Chambers opposes efforts to raise the sales tax, saying it disproportionately affects the poor.
The local option sales tax allows cities to ask voters to increase the sales tax to fund specific projects.
Only five cities have exercised the option. Three succeeded in winning voter approval. Voters in Sidney, Alma and Waterloo passed measures to increase their sales taxes. Voters turned down similar measure in Bellevue and Nebraska City.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]