Property taxes top Legislature’s to-do list once again

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    Perhaps, unsurprisingly, the upcoming session of the Nebraska Legislature will be a case of deja vu all over again.
    District 44 Sen. Dan Hughes said property tax relief will be high on the agenda when the Legislature convenes Jan. 8. The other big topic this session will be the ImagiNE Nebraska Act, the state’s business incentive program.
    The good news, Hughes said, is that sales and income tax revenue is expected to exceed projections and “those are the dollars that we are going to be fighting over.”
    The majority of the unexpected money seems to come from corporate income taxes. But that could be a mixed blessing, Hughes said.
    “I’m not comfortable with the long-term trend of that happening, because corporations manipulate their tax payments to their benefit. I don’t see it as a trend; I hope I’m wrong,” he said.
    Property tax relief and work on the ImagiNE Act will have to go hand-in-hand, Hughes said.
    “There aren’t enough votes for either one [alone], but if we comprise, they should go together at the same time,” he believes.
    While predictions are subject to change once the Legislature convenes, Gov. Pete Ricketts seems to be on board with giving agriculture $100 million in property tax relief, he said. Determining how that will be delivered will be a job, he said, but legislators will work on finding a way to offset school tax askings  on ag land taxes.
    “Probably the easiest thing would be to just reduce the amount of valuation that can be taxes by K-12 education,” he said.
    Currently, taxation is figured on 75 percent of ag land valuation and “if we could drop that to 50, 45 percent, it’s not going to do a great lot for the low-value districts like Chase County or Perkins County, but it’s certainly heading us in the right direction.”
    Work on the ImagiNE Act will be focused on “making it more transparent,” he said.
    “Who’s getting the credits? And probably putting a cap on the amount that it would cost the state in a given year.” So far, discussions have centered on capping it at $150 million a year statewide, he said.

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