First four-year term for Sen. Hughes ends

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    Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango left no doubt he was glad to see the 60-day session of the 105th Nebraska Legislature come to an end.
    “Oh man, yes. Absolutely.”
    The Legislature adjourned April 18, bringing an end to a session that saw Hughes get some key legislation for the 44th District passed.
    What didn’t happen was any agreement among state senators on how, or even whether to, create property tax relief for Nebraskans.
    That left Hughes with a sour taste when the session came to an end.
    “I’m very frustrated we couldn’t get anything done,” he said this week.
    The governor’s tax bill offered some property tax relief on agland, he said. However, it would have taken seven to 10 years to see any appreciable impact.
    The key to property tax relief revolves around state aid to schools, in Hughes’ opinion.
    The problem is that a large faction of urban senators have no desire to make any adjustments to school state aid—because they get most of it, Hughes said.
    “They have no reason to compromise,” he said.
    Hughes said they don’t appreciate the disadvantage this puts on, not only the state’s farmers, but the state as a whole. “You’re crippling the largest single industry in the state,” he said.
    The state aid formula penalizes rural school districts that have experienced skyrocketing valuation on ag land.
    With all this valuation, the formula determines these districts do not need state aid.
    Property taxes account for the bulk of school revenue in districts receiving little or no state aid.
    Hughes said all but one of the school districts in the 44th receive little or no state aid. That leaves property taxpayers to pick up the bill.
    Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard had a bill that would refund 50 percent of the property taxes paid for schools back to the taxpayer. That bill never made it out of committee.
    However, Erdman’s bill has been picked up by the group Reform for Nebraska’s Future who is gathering signatures to get the initiative on the November ballot.
    Hughes gave the effort 99-1 odds that it will make the ballot. The question will be whether or not it can pass. Millions will be spent trying to defeat it.
    If approved, the Legislature would have to come up with another $1.1 billion in revenue to cover the refunds.
Key Hughes bills passed
    In terms of passing his own legislation and that of his Natural Resources committee, it proved to be a good year.
    Hughes gained near unanimous support for LB 758, passing on a 45-4 vote on final reading.

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