Neb. lawmakers advance property tax reduction bill despite concerns raised by policy groups & state chambers

Neb. lawmakers advance property tax reduction bill despite concerns raised by policy groups & state chambers
(Photo Courtesy NPM)
April 3rd, 2024 | RRN/Bob Brogan

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan hopes for input to make changes to LB388 on select file

Lincoln, Neb. — Nebraska lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a bill aimed at tax changes in order to reduce property taxes. LB388 advanced on a vote of 28-12. The bill remains a work in progress which Elkhorn Sen. Lou Ann Linehan hopes to make changes to at the second stage of debate…

Several lawmakers were surprised when Bayard Sen. Steve Erdman made a last-minute vote change to allow lawmakers to reach 33 votes to invoke cloture on the bill. Negotiations on the bill could involve a host of options. The bill originally proposed up to a 1-cent increase in state sales tax and add sales tax to such items as pop and candy, state lottery tickets, pet services and other items in order to raise about $650 million in revenue to lower property taxes.

Rebecca Firestone, executive director of OpenSky Policy Institute responded to the vote by saying that the bill is a tax shift that benefits wealthy individuals:

RRN/Rebecca Firestone, executive director of OpenSky Policy Institute

“Last year, the Legislature made a choice to pass record income tax breaks for the wealthiest Nebraskans and out of state corporations, and now, when property tax cuts are the priority, the solution is a tax shift onto consumers that does little to help working families and small businesses facing economic challenges.

Increasing state support for schools is a necessary step to address Nebraska’s longstanding overreliance on property taxes. But that support should be directed to address educational outcomes and not simply provide property tax relief to property owners – many of whom are out of state – through a sales tax increase on hardworking Nebraskans.

“We encourage negotiations on select file to ensure that property tax relief is sustainable for the state and tax changes are beneficial for everyday Nebraskans.”

The Rural Radio Network (RRN) interviewed Rebecca Firestone Thursday, Mar. 28, about various aspects of the bill.

LB388 proposes significant tax changes aimed at reaching Gov. Jim Pillen’s goal to reduce statewide property tax payments by 40%. Elkhorn Sen. Lou Ann Linehan introduced the bill on behalf of Gov. Pillen. Rebecca Firestone, executive director of OpenSky Policy Institute talked to the RRN about the bill’s approach to reducing property taxes…

“Something that meets the Governor’s goal of a 40% reduction in property taxes, which basically would mean needing to find about a billion dollars of tax revenues that the state could direct into property tax relief. They’re not going to get there this year. The package that they started debate on yesterday (Wed., March 27) is an estimated $650 million that would be directed into property tax relief.”

Firestone tells the RRN that the bill would raise sales taxes up to 1% and apply them to a number of currently exempt goods and services…

Another separate bill would direct the money raised to schools, with the idea that they would then reduce the property taxes they currently rely on.

In a rare move between two groups that almost never agree, the Platte Institute has sided with OpenSky Policy Institute, in opposing LB 388. Also joining in opposition is the conservative organization Americans for Prosperity. Several state chambers including the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce have stated opposition to LB 388, calling it a tax increase and a tax shift.

Firestone tells the RRN that the bill also proposes to cap spending by county and municipal government…

The bill would provide exceptions from the cap for police, fire and correctional employees.


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