Hughes: work still remains on property tax relief plan

    Looking back, Sen. Dan Hughes believes if a new business incentive act would have passed last year, the Legislature would have never achieved property tax relief this year.
    Last year, 20 or so senators, including Hughes, stood firm that they weren’t going to pass a new incentive act without property tax relief. No incentive package was passed, much to the surprise of urban senators.  
    Hughes’ goal this session was to ensure some type of property tax relief solution passed the Legislature.
    Things didn’t look good for a property tax relief bill in the 60-day session­—then COVID-19 hit and the Legislature went into recess for four months.
    They reconvened in late July and the prospects for some type of compromise looked promising.
    That was all due to Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk, Hughes said this week after the Legislature adjourned Aug. 13.
    He said the leadership Scheer showed in getting people on board for a bill, branded as the “grand compromise,” was unmatched.
    Basically, Scheer put seven key senators in a room and urged them to work out a solution.
    What came out was a bill to address property tax relief, establish a new business incentive program for the state and make a $300 million commitment to a possible $2 billion national center for response to pandemics, natural disasters and bioterrorism at the University of Nebraska Med Center.
    “It took us two years to get there,” Hughes said referring to property tax relief.
    The state has already established the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund that doles out $275 million.
    The bill created a second property tax relief fund, providing an additional $125 million in property tax relief through state income tax credits, with that commitment of state funding rising to $375 million no later than 2025.
    Hughes said that means that money is locked in for property tax relief and can’t be used for new spending by the Legislature.
    In addition, any revenue growth over 3.5% will go into the second fund for property tax relief.
    The business incentive package provides up to $25 million in incentives in the first two years for business investment and job growth, growing to as much as $150 million in five years.
    Hughes said the bill provided something for everyone but no one got everything they wanted.
    But there’s still much work that needs to be done to reduce the property tax burden on agriculture, he said.

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