Governor's proposed cap on local taxes raises questions

    For his first stop outside the capitol, Gov. Pete Ricketts visited Grand Island on his State of the State tour (NTV News)

    Some say Governor Pete Ricketts’ plan to cap local taxes could have unintended consequences.

    The governor’s proposal would put a constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot, to limit the growth of property taxes to three percent a year by local government.

    It would apply to counties, cities, and schools, among other government entities.

    Hall County Chair Pam Lancaster points to the county’s situation.

    They have a lot of roads to maintain plus a large jail and criminal justice system.

    County leaders say salaries rose 20 to 28 percent in recent years. That came after Grand Island was officially designated a metro area which changed the pay scale.

    Counties say if they had a major expense like that in a given year, they could be forced to make difficult decisions.

    Lancaster said, “If there's a concern about three percent, if we can't maintain that, we're talking about cutting services and people because that's what we do. We're service oriented and it requires people to continue those services.”

    Lancaster said her concern is that a state labor panel known as the Commission of Industrial Relations (CIR) could make a legal ruling, requiring local government to increase pay.

    Lancaster said she supports Gov. Ricketts’ desire to cut taxes, but said he needs to also look at factors like the CIR that can cause a city or county to suddenly increase spending.

    The governor's proposal would allow local voters to override that three percent cap.

    Bond issues would not be included in the limit.

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