I want to address a fear I have heard from certain people concerning the property tax ballot initiative. I have heard it would be likely to result in massive tax increases and create a “crisis” in Nebraska. My question is this: Who is it a crisis for? Is it a crisis for the people paying some of the highest property taxes in the country?
Here is my read on the Legislature with its current membership: There are not 25 votes to pass a bill that raises income or sales taxes. I do not think it is even close. A bill hiking taxes is unlikely to even make it out of committee. If by some fluke it did, there are not the 33 senators needed to end the filibuster, which I can promise you would surely come. There are at least 20 senators, myself included, who would be happy to lead it.
The “crisis” folks need to be focused on is the one that is already here and has been getting worse for decades. Family farms and ranches are going bankrupt trying to pay their property taxes. People and businesses are fleeing Nebraska, or not moving here in the first place, because of high taxes. We are told we have to create economic development programs that spend $120,000 in tax money to create one job, in order to attract businesses to our high tax state. The real “crisis” — the one that is already here — is the result of our high taxes.
There is one more chance to solve the property tax problem next session. We need to find common ground and come together in order to do that. Rumors and innuendo sour our political discourse, and grow the political divide we already have in Nebraska. They makes reaching a solution on this serious problem even more difficult. I think our chances of getting something passed in the legislature are substantially increased when we can all work together in good faith.
I see a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to update our whole tax system. I think there is a responsible way to permanently lower the property tax burden while properly funding our schools. I think we can actually lower the sales tax rate, and perhaps even do away with income taxes altogether. The people are actually doing the legislature a favor with their property tax ballot initiative. They can break the political logjam we’re in, and open up a whole range of opportunities the Legislature can’t even dream of right now.
Contact Sen. Tom Brewer: firstname.lastname@example.org.