This week we debated two important property tax proposals. Senator Erdman’s priority bill, LB 483, would change how we assess the value of agricultural real estate. This is not a broad-based property tax cut bill. It merely changes the current appraisal method. Instead of using comparable sale records on properties that are often very different, appraisal of ag land would be based on the farm or ranch income a parcel of ground could generate.
Other states around Nebraska use this method with great success. It is a smart, easy, fair way to establish the value of agricultural land. The bill never came up for a vote because it was filibustered by urban senators, some of whom do not even have agricultural ground in their districts.
Later in the week, Senator Erdman offered another proposal as an amendment to Senator Linehan’s LB 512. His amendment would change the law that establishes when the value of a property is set for the tax year. Right now, that value is established at the beginning of each year. If a flood comes along in the middle of March—like we saw this year—and it destroys the property, the owner still owes the full property tax as assessed on January 1. Senator Erdman’s proposal would allow this value to be adjusted up until the 1st of October each year, and the full amount would be owed after that.
Once again, this property tax measure was filibustered by urban senators. One Lincoln senator voiced her concerns that the Legislature should think first about the need of county governments, instead of thinking of the taxpayer first. I think that is flat-out wrong: government should exist to serve the people, not the other way around. Driving disaster-stricken property owners into the ground with unjust high taxes on property that has been destroyed will not help county governments stay afloat over the long run.
Twice in one week a rural senator fought to get property tax changes—and perhaps a little disaster relief—for rural (and urban) areas. Both efforts were delayed by urban senators, many of whom were not affected by the disaster last month or either of Senator Erdman’s measures. The outcome of these early property tax discussions certainly does not bode well for the debate we will soon have on the larger issue of property tax relief. Whether my colleagues from the more populated parts of Nebraska realize it or not, property tax relief is critical to the survival of our ag economy. My constituents already understand this. If agriculture continues to suffer, so will our state economy that relies on the ag sector so heavily. I hope in days to come that we see more property tax relief proposals on the legislative agenda. Nebraskans have been waiting more than a generation already.
Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at email@example.com, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1423, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call us at (402) 471-2628.