Gov. Pete Ricketts has signed into law two bills that carried his property tax relief proposal this legislative session.
The bills underwent quite a bit of change during the session.
Still, Ricketts insists the package provides real relief for property tax owners, especially farmers and ranchers.
“And, for those who try to downplay this, I would remind them that we are going to be dedicating $20 million a year to folks who own ag land through (LB)958,” Ricketts tells reporters during a news conference.
LB 958 originally sought to control the rate of revenue growth among a wide range of local governments to provide nearly $30 million in property tax relief, mainly aimed at agricultural land. Legislators stripped the bill of the local revenue restrictions and pared down the total amount of property tax relief to $20 million.
Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island, LB 958 sponsor, says as his bill moved through the process, it became apparent the Unicameral would accept increasing the tax credits available to farmers and ranchers.
“And, in this case, since our challenges in recent years have been that growth in the evaluations of ag land, to target that specifically towards property tax credit for ag land, that’s where we ended up,” Gloor says.
Farmers and ranchers have complained that agricultural land assessed evaluations continue to rise even as commodity prices have fallen, pointing out they must pay their property taxes whether they have a good year or a bad one.
The second bill, LB 959, makes changes to the state school funding formula, changes that sponsor, Sen. Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids, says not only will lessen the burden on property taxpayers, but will make for good school funding policy.
“Looking through what some might say is a very complicated state aid formula for supporting our schools, but making some structural changes in it that I think not only provides property tax relief, but then make the school funding formula more accountable to the taxpayers,” Sullivan says.
LB 959 provides $8.5 million to a number of school districts, mostly in rural Nebraska, which do not currently receive state aid. Sullivan says that will take pressure off those district to increase their local levies.
AUDIO: Gov. Pete Ricketts hosts signing ceremony for property tax relief package. [8:30]