Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion opposes a tax break for the state’s zoos (LB 419), because the Unicameral hasn’t acted on reducing the property tax burden.
“I understand the reason for this bill. I totally understand it. I totally understand what Sen. Mello is trying to do,” Kintner said during legislative floor debate. “But, until we can do something for the regular people that just go to work that don’t have a lobbyist, I just can’t support any tax relief for anyone special.”
LB 419, sponsored by Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, would exempt admissions and memberships to the state’s zoos from sales tax, a collective savings of $2.5 million over two years that could be reinvested by the zoos and aquariums.
Mello defended the measure against attacks by those who complained that the Unicameral was focused on targeted tax breaks while a bill to lower property taxes for agriculture has stalled.
Mello pointed out the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha is a world-class zoo which has become the largest tourist attraction in Nebraska.
“This is an economic development bill that’s encouraging increased investment from the private sector into the state’s third largest industry. It’s that plain. It’s that simple,” Mello stated.
Legislators also advanced an $800,000 property tax break to keep Woodmen of the World’s headquarters in Omaha.
Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte opposes the Woodmen tax break, but told colleagues he understands why the insurance company seeks it.
“Why are they here now? It’s the teapot folks,” Groene said. “Property taxes are getting to the point where they’re bothering even huge corporations, putting pressure on them. The teapot is boiling over. This is a hint to all of us that we have a property tax problem in the state of Nebraska.”
Opponents of LB 414 mounted a filibuster against it.
Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha, the LB 414 sponsor, defended the tax break as a step necessary to insure Woodmen of the World keeps its headquarters in downtown Omaha, along with its 550 jobs.
“Those are good, Middle Class jobs,” Harr said. “Those are the kind of employers we want to have here in Nebraska. Those are the kinds we want to incentivize to come and to stay in Nebraska and to grow in Nebraska; not to demonize, not to beat up, not to say they’re a special interest.”
Harr barely mustered enough voters to overcome a filibuster, then won advancement of the bill. It is one step away from approval.