Plenty Of Debate, No Action On Property Tax Relief And Tax Incentives

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – The Nebraska Legislature held floor debate Wednesday on the two main bills of the two biggest issues of the session, property tax relief and tax incentives for business, but ran out to the daily debate limit on both without reaching a vote.

Most of the arguments on both sides of both bills had been heard earlier in the session.

The property tax relief bill lowers tax valuations, tightens school spending limits, lowers tax valuations, and makes up lost property tax revenue by increasing state aid by more than $500-million dollars over the next 3 years.

Revenue Committee Chair Lou Ann Linehan said it was needed because there is “a crisis in Nebraska, because our K-12 education depends on an overreliance on property taxes,” while opponents said they were afraid the promised increased state aid would vanish if the state has a budget crisis during that permit.

Gering Senator John Stinner, chairman of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee, told his colleagues he thought before the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic slowdown that the state could afford the bill, but not now with predictions of a 5-to-6% drop in state revenue over the next 3 years because of the pandemic.

On the tax incentive issue, the state’s existing Nebraska Advantage Act expires at the end of the year supporters of a new package argued the state needs strong incentives to remain competitive with other states in attracting new businesses and keeping existing ones.

Opponents questioned the effectiveness of incentives, says studies of various programs across the country cast doubt on whether any of them pay for themselves as states try to steal companies from each other.

Some of the arguments raised on both bills should come into clearer focus Thursday as the Economic Forecasting Advisory Board meets to set its projection of state revenues for the next two years – figures that will determine how much money lawmakers have available to spend.