Nebraska Lawmakers Push for Property Tax Relief in 2016

December 22, 2015 05:00 AM

Nebraska lawmakers are gearing up for next year's legislative session with a focus on broad-based property tax relief for city dwellers as well as farmers and ranchers.

Legislative leaders and Gov. Pete Ricketts have pegged property taxes as one of the top priorities for the session, despite a projected budget shortfall.

Sen. Mike Gloor, chairman of the Revenue Committee, said he expects an attempt to slow the sharp land value increases that have forced farmers and ranchers to pay more in taxes. Gloor said he and others are also looking at proposals that would benefit residential and commercial properties.

But Gloor, of Grand Island, said there's "just no way" lawmakers will find enough money to bring property taxes into balance with income and sales taxes next year. Farmers and ranchers have complained that property taxes account for a disproportionately large share of their total tax burden.

"If we can come up with significant amounts of money year after year after year, we'll get there," Gloor said. But next year, "I think it's unlikely that we'll come up with hundreds of millions of dollars that would be required to get us back to an appropriate balance."

Speaker of the Legislature Galen Hadley said he doesn't yet know which specific property tax policies lawmakers will debate, but he expects the issue to dominate the short, 60-day session that begins on Jan. 6.

Hadley said it's too early to tell how the state budget will affect the Legislature's ability to reduce taxes. Nebraska faces a projected $110 million revenue shortfall in addition to major budget requests from the Department of Correctional Services, the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies.

"I certainly hope we can put together some kind of package," said Hadley, of Kearney. "It seems like every time we get some momentum going, we get hit with one of these problems."

The projected shortfall will likely change in February, when the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board meets to update its revenue projections. A projected increase in state revenue would make it easier for senators to balance the budget, but a decrease could force them to trim spending or tap the state's cash reserve.

Ricketts spokesman Taylor Gage said the governor remains "committed to working with senators to provide additional property tax relief," but declined to discuss specific proposals.

During a press conference last week, Ricketts said he wouldn't rule out an increase to the state's property tax credit fund, which uses state money to offset what property owners have to pay to counties and school districts.

Ricketts and lawmakers approved a budget this year that provided $204 million a year for the tax credit, increasing it by 45 percent. With the additional money, owners of a $150,000 home get a $141 credit applied to their property taxes.

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Spell Check

Grand Junction, CO
12/30/2015 05:36 PM

  Next door, in Colorado, property taxes on agg land are next to nothing. Big contrast, and worth looking into.

Kearney, NE
12/22/2015 06:48 AM

  With property taxes at or exceeding $10,000. per 160 acres, the legislature has an immense job ahead of it. There is simply no way to pay these outrageous amounts with $3.50 corn, $8 beans, and $4.50 wheat, as the costs of other inputs simply won't allow for it. Even though the urban sector of Nebraska doesn't like to recognize it, Agriculture is the economic engine of the state. However, the state will squeeze every drop of financial blood out of Ag property taxes that they can long before they actually do anything about them as there are absolutely no "Statesmen" who will propose the only workable solution-reducing the number of school districts. Nebraska simply has more forms of "education" than it has people to pay for them. Thus, the continuing problem with property taxes. I won't be holding my breath waiting for the legislature to do something to change that dynamic.

wm anderson
cheyenne, WY
5/3/2016 04:31 PM

  The situation is that the county and school district personnel freely choose to ignore that they must lower their spending. They must feel that they do not have to be accountible. They have not come to the table and tried to lower taxes. They merely look the other way and feel they are entitled to their spending despite economic circumstances. They choose to ignore that they are putting the burden on farmers and blame the legislature for lack of funds. They choose to not recognize where the money must come from(and take no responsibility for their use of tax money). There are no apologies really. There is really no local analyis of where we can cut and no local motivation but to put the burden on others .