A bill to cap Nebraska property tax increases at 3%, with exceptions including new construction, stalled in the Legislature Thursday amid fierce opposition from allies of local governments, who cast it as an attack on local control. Backers fell 4 votes short of stopping a filibuster, likely but not definitively killing it for the session
It would have applied to all local government entities that collect property taxes including cities, counties, school districts, community colleges, and natural resource districts. It would sunset in 2027.
Sponsor Tom Briese argued that Nebraska faces a “property tax crisis” that will come to a boil if lawmakers don’t act, warning that anger over taxes will “manifest itself into something we don’t like” such as a tax-limitation ballot measure. Gov Pete Ricketts has repeatedly raised the same argument.
Senator Mike Flood put the blame on local governments who have held property tax rates steady while sharply rising valuations kept bringing in more and more tax money. Senator Matt Williams of Gothenburg responded that Flood’s criticism doesn’t apply to all taxing entities.
Williams pointed to 4 school districts in his legislative district – Gothenburg, Cozad, Lexington, and Broken Bow – whose annual increase in spending have ranged between 1.65% over the last 4 years in Cozad to 7 years of half-a-percent a year for Broken Bow.
Sen Carol Blood of Bellevue added that “you can’t keep doing these types of bills that punish everybody because you’re perturbed at a few.
Lincoln Sen Suzanne Geist said property taxes were the #1 issue she heard on the campaign trail last year with many people said high taxes were keeping them from buying homes.
40-year old John Cavanaugh of Omaha replied that the young, educated people Nebraska is trying to attract are usually more concerned about child care costs, student loans, and quality of life than property taxes.