Senator-elect Myron Dorn says Gage County government is being seriously impacted by a $28-million civil judgment.
Dorn says, “I’ve visited with numerous state senators about the possibility of some kind of bill that would allow counties to pay on a federal judgment, impose a sales tax and collect it countywide.”
Under current state law, counties can’t collect a local sales tax in jurisdictions that also have a local sales tax, for example, in Beatrice. Gage County started paying the civil judgment in the Beatrice 6 case this year and it should stretch over the next seven to eight years.
Dorn says part of the effort involves researching how much revenue would be raised by a local sales tax.
“The senators I have visited with have been receptive to the fact that this would be a different avenue other than property taxes to help pay for the Beatrice 6 situation that we’re in,” Dorn says.
Six defendants were exonerated after each served several years in prison for the rape and murder of a Beatrice woman in 1985. Later, DNA testing implicated a lone suspect who died in Oklahoma in 1992.
The resulting federal jury decision and civil award against the county is still under appeal.
Dorn says he does not plan to introduce the legislation without first seeking input and support from the Gage County Board.
“Only allow for payment of federal judgments,” Dorn says. “Then it’s germaine to all the counties, all the cities. The only time you could use that is to pay a federal judgment.”
Dorn says the measure would be designed so once the judgment is paid off, the local sales tax would vanish.
County Board member Erich Tiemann maintains that because criminal prosecution is a state duty, perhaps there should be a small increase in the state sales tax to pay off federal judgments.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice