An effort to force online retailers to collect the state sales tax has failed in the Unicameral, after opponents successfully block an attempt at a compromise.
Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse, sponsor of LB 44, thought he had a compromise worked out with Gov. Pete Ricketts, but a filibuster blocked him from removing the bill from final reading to amend it.
Watermeier fell two votes short of breaking the filibuster.
“I really didn’t think I had to have that today,” Watermeier tells Nebraska Radio Network. “I thought that with the support I had from the governor’s office and the discussions I had with those individuals that we had those votes secured, but apparently we did not.”
LB 44 made it to final reading despite the governor’s objections.
Though Watermeier had his measure on the verge of passing, he continued in talks with the governor’s office and reached an agreement on an amendment to address the governor’s concerns.
His motion to remove the bill from Final Reading and take it back to Select Reading for the amendment ran into unusual opposition. Opponents pounced on the opportunity. They used a filibuster to kill the bill as Watermeier scrambled for the votes he needed.
The measure is dead for this session.
Though levying a sales tax on online sales is estimated to bring in $40 million annually, Watermeier claims he didn’t push the issue to raise money for a cash-strapped state. Instead, Watermeier says he sees the issue as a matter of fairness: online retailers should collect the tax Nebraska retailers do.
“You’ll just have to wait until next year as far as those brick and mortar stores in the state of Nebraska,” Watermeier says. “They’re out for the year and those that think it’s a new tax have won the day.”
LB 44 would have authorized the state to collect sales taxes on online purchases if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of the states in a pending court case. A 1992 decision, Quill v. North Dakota, ruled states could not force a retailer without a physical presence in their state to collect sales taxes. South Dakota is challenging the decision in a case before the court.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]