Governor Pete Ricketts’ property tax relief package is a step away from passing the Unicameral.
A day after legislators advanced a school funding formula designed to take pressure off school districts to raise their levies, legislators approved $20 million in property tax credits for agriculture. Both bills must clear final round approval to be sent to the governor.
Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island succeeded in guiding LB 958 through a second round of debate. Gloor told lawmakers the bill was a product of much research.
“The one thing that was brought to us was the best way to get property tax relief to taxpayers was to provide it as directly as you could; not through formulas, not through trying to crack down expenses related to levying entities, but to try to get those dollars directly back to taxpayers,” Gloor said in opening debate on the measure.
Still, Gloor had to water down his bill to get it through the legislature. He removed language that would restrict the revenue growth of local governments, including community colleges. He lowered the tax credits offered to farmers and ranchers from $30 million to $20 million.
A portion of the bill would have restricted the spending on community college campuses. It became controversial, threatened to derail the property tax relief package, and was stripped from the bill.
Still, some senators made sure community college leaders knew they were watching their finances.
Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus warned community college leaders that though financial restrictions have been removed from the bill, they remain under a microscope.
“So, this is a message across the bow, a big shot across the bow to the community colleges,” Schumacher told colleagues. “I think you’re going to be looked at closely. I think your spending habits are going to be looked at closely. I think the legislature is going to have to look at what we assign you to do.”
Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis failed to attach an amendment that would have lowered the levy caps on community colleges.
“You’ve heard from the constituents in Nebraska that they want property tax relief,” Davis said. “Let’s be courageous and let’s send a message to the community colleges that enough is enough.”
The second half of the package didn’t run into the lengthy debate LB 959, sponsored by Sen. Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids, did. Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha relented on his threat to slow down the legislative session and allowed the bill to move with relatively ease through second-round debate.