Various property tax bills and ideas were debated in the legislature during the last session. Senator Groene and Linehan’s LB 289 drew the most attention. It would have begun the long, hard process of reforming how we pay for K–12 education in Nebraska, and it would have delivered some much-needed property tax relief. It would have been a good start. Unfortunately, the ideological composition of the body, combined with the enormous pressure brought to bear by a legion of well-funded lobbyists, was just too much to overcome. The bill died during floor debate.
The Platte Institute for Economic Research will host a Property Tax Reform Town Hall in North Platte this month. It will be held at the Prairie Arts Center, 416 North Jeffers Street, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 25. Senators Groene, Linehan, and Lowe are scheduled to speak. They will discuss LB 289 and other proposals to provide property tax reform. I applaud the Platte Institute for hosting this conversation. I think it is a smart idea to have these town hall meetings to inform the public before the next session. I plan to attend this meeting, and I encourage everyone to join us. Finding a legislative solution to Nebraska’s destructive property taxes is the right thing to do and is something every Nebraskan has a stake in.
While this meeting is going on, people from the property tax ballot initiative will be set up and collecting signatures nearby. They will be working on a “people’s solution” to this problem. In my tenure in the Legislature, I’ve seen first-hand the body’s repeated inability to get anything done on property taxes. Not enough of my colleagues seem to really understand the heartache out there among farmers and ranchers just trying to make it in Nebraska. This is why I believe both a legislative solution and a “people’s solution” to the property tax crisis must move forward together in tandem. I believe the two efforts are joined at the hip and all 49 senators should support both.
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When elected officials are deadlocked, there has to be some way for the public to force them to do their jobs. Thank God the good citizens of Nebraska had the wisdom in 1912 to put the ballot initiative process in our constitution. We are one of only 21 states where the people have such power. Through the ballot initiative process, the voters can commit the state to a course of action, regardless of what the politicians think. Unless the Legislature is convinced the “people’s solution” to the property tax problem is imminent, I think senators will continue to suffer from a lack of motivation on this issue no matter how many town hall meetings we attend or mountains of bills we introduce. I hope people take a little time and sign the petition.
Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1423, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call us at (402) 471-2628.