An attempt to funnel more state aid to rural school districts in order to ease the tax burden on rural property owners stalls in the legislature.
Sen. Roy Baker of Lincoln claimed the measure won’t even help all rural property owners.
“This isn’t just urban versus rural. It’s also rural versus rural,” Baker said during legislative floor debate on LB 640.
Baker told colleagues he is not against providing more state aid to all school districts so they can lower their levies. But, Baker said, that isn’t what the bill does.
LB 640 would move $224 million from the Property Tax Credit Fund to the school districts which rely heavily on property taxes. An influx of state money would allow the local school districts to lower their tax levies, providing property tax relief, especially on agricultural property.
Urban school districts would not benefit from the plan and most urban property owners would lose tax credits. Rural senators say such a shift is justified, because farmers and ranchers have been shouldering a disproportionate property tax burden.
Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson accused opponents of sitting out the debate.
“I find it really interesting that most of my urban colleagues are refusing to indulge in debating this,” Friesen stated. “They’ve left. They’re unwilling to speak up. They’ve chosen Sen. Baker as their spokesman and they’re sitting on their hands waiting for the bill to die.”
It’s now on life-support, likely unable to get the 33 votes to move forward.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]