A committee of 14 state senators that make up the Tax Modernization Committee has embarked on a public hearing tour to take input on how to reform Nebraska's tax structure. The committee was created in the 2013 session after a proposal Gov. Dave Heineman to eliminate or reduce income taxes by ending several sales tax exemptions was shot down.
Revising the state's tax structure would essentially mean shifting the tax load in the state.
The committee members have a major challenge on their hands, and so will the full legislative body in the 2014 Legislature when it takes up the recommendations.
In the first two of its public hearings, in Scottsbluff and North Platte, the committee found out right away what's on the minds of farmers and ranchers—high property taxes and the need to reduce the heavy burden carried by landowners. Committee members got an earful.
A Dawson County farmer, Dale Gronewold, testified that the system is inequitable. Not only is it problem for all producers, it's especially tough on beginning farmers, he said.
Jim O'Rourke, referring to the Chadron School District in which he resides, says 50% of the budget is paid by 10% of the population—farmers and ranchers.
According to the Nebraska Farm Bureau, the state's ag landowners represent less than 3% of Nebraska's population, but pay roughly 24% of total property taxes statewide.
The entire tax system needs to be revised, but Nebraska finally must get serious about reducing the property tax load on agriculture.
State Sen. Glen Hadley of Kearney is chairman of the committee. To offer your input to the committee, call his office in Lincoln at 402-471-2726 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.