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Lawmakers grapple with best way to provide tax relief

Lawmakers grapple with best way to provide tax relief (NTV News)

Governor Pete Ricketts unveils the latest attempt to bring tax relief to Nebraska farmers and homeowners.

Senators caution it’s a work in progress as they try to reach a compromise deal.

“The number one thing people talk to me about is property tax relief,” the governor told the Revenue Committee.

He appeared before them to pitch his tax plan to lawmakers, saying it would bring meaningful relief especially for farmers whose taxes are far higher than in surrounding states.

He said, “In an agricultural state this is a problem it makes our ag producers be competitively disadvantaged versus others in the nation.”

Quentin Bowen, a farmer from southeast Nebraska said, “Every farmer and rancher in Nebraska could tell you to the penny what their property taxes are.”

For this farmer, his land is taxed at $10,000 but he said it would be half that in Kansas.

Nebraska Farm Bureau says the bill moves the levels just enough to get their endorsement.

Steve Nelson said, “Anything less than what is being proposed we would find very difficult to support, but it does provide some meaningful property tax relief over time.”

Senators question the process that has clouded the budget impact.

“I have no way of knowing what it'll cost,” said Sen. Burke Harr.

The governor’s plan would take money from an existing tax credit program, and provide credits towards income taxes, based on how much homeowners and farm land owners pay.

The details are still up for debate. In a bill called a framework, they're open to change.

The governor said his commitment was to work with senators to “Amend the bill to get consensus to get it to my desk for my signature.”

Some lawmakers prefer different proposals including one that would increase the sales tax a half cent and end other tax loopholes.

"Raises new revenue, directs that revenue to increase K-12 education with the balance going to the property tax credit fund," said Senator Tom Briese.

Briese, an Albion farmer, has bipartisan support for a plan he thinks gets to the heart of the issue, which is education funding and reducing the burden on farmers.

"We have young farmers and ranchers choking on red ink," Briese said.

There’s also an effort to put a different proposal on the ballot for voters to decide. Some think that’ll force senators to come together and reach a compromise.

"I am optimistic that the stars are lining up for us this year," Briese said.

With several competing proposals, it remains to be seen which will move through the legislative process.

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