A revamped property tax relief package gets mixed reviews at a legislative hearing.
A shift to provide $29 million in property tax credits for farmland has moved through the Revenue Committee to the full legislature for debate with the session winding to a close.
The legislative hearing on a major piece of legislation comes late in the session. There are only two legislative weeks left in the session with three outlier days scheduled to consider gubernatorial vetoes.
LB 958 has been amended to change the distribution of the state property tax credit fund to shift more relief to farmers and ranchers. The change would take effect in 2017. It would limit the amount of money community colleges could stash away for future use and give local governments the power to pool money as an insurance for future unexpected expenses.
Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen tells the committee his members approve.
“It is not, if they had their druthers, what they would like to see,” Hansen testifies. “They would like to see something more structural, more sustainable.”
The Nebraska Farm Bureau also backs the proposal, though reiterating its goal of reducing the dependence on agricultural property taxes to finance Nebraska schools to 40%. Nebraska public schools now receive between 55-to-57% of their revenue from farmland property taxes.
Dissent came from the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, and the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, which charge the proposal is providing preferential treatment to farmers over urban dwellers.
Johnathan Hladik with the Center for Rural Affairs says too much would go to well-off farmers.
“This proposal would put approximately $20 million of taxpayer dollars in the pockets of the just over 12,000 farmers in Nebraska that are already earning over $320,000 each year,” Hladik tells committee members, adding the proposal would provide only $9 million in property tax cuts to the remaining 36,000 farmers.
Floor debate is set for next week.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]