Senator Brewer’s Weekly Update


Senator Tom Brewer

By Senator Tom Brewer

In 1966, the good people of Nebraska had finally had enough of the ‘State Property Tax. Led by the Nebraska Farm Bureau, they collected the needed signatures on the initiative petition. They put the question to the people on the November ballot. By a margin of 50.89% to 49.11% the people of Nebraska passed a constitutional amendment that did away with the “State Property Tax.”

At that point in time, the state property tax was nearly the only source of revenue for all forms of local units of government (schools, counties, incorporated villages, towns and cities, NRDs, etc) in Nebraska, including the state government. When the first session of the 50th Legislature met the following January in 1967, they began the session without any revenue to run the State of Nebraska. The newspaper editorial pages at the time were filled with predictions of doom. Many described the situation as a “crisis” for Nebraska.

The Republican Governor, Norbert “Nobby” Tiemann, introduced two bills that created the state income and state sales tax. Opposition to the income tax was so fierce, the hearings for the bills took days as the line of people to testify stretched around the block. For the first time in history the Nebraska Republican Party did not endorse a sitting republican governor for re-election. They endorsed his primary challenger instead. The resulting political battle during the primary so wounded Governor Tiemann, he lost the general election to the Democrat J. James Exxon.

Today, fifty-eight years later, we find ourselves in a similar situation. High property taxes are strangling the #1 industry in our state and Nebraskans are sick of it. The problem has now spread to our two major metropolitan areas. Property taxes on urban Nebraskans are rapidly catching up with the farm and ranch part of Nebraska. The hopelessly broken “TEEOSA” formula is how we determine how much money a public school receives. Very soon this formula will begin taking state dollars out of the budget of big, wealthy Omaha and Lincoln schools.

The Governor’s bill, LB 388, introduced on his behalf by my good friend Senator Linehan, is clear evidence he is dead serious about fixing this problem. He could not have chosen a better Senator to carry the bill. The path ahead for this bill is uncertain. If the body doesn’t pass it, I believe we will end up in a special session this summer, called for the purpose of lowering property taxes. Many say the bill is as not as big as the problem. I agree, but it is also important for Nebraskans to remember the two possible outcomes for a bill in our Unicameral Legislature; all of nothing, or part of something. The more the bill does, the harder it is to pass, especially in a sixty-day session.

When the big public schools in Nebraska start losing money they used to get from the state, suddenly you will see the Omaha and Lincoln senators unanimous in their support of a swift and comprehensive resolution to the issue. In the meantime, we have seven legislative days left before we adjourn Sine Die. The 2nd Session of the 108th Legislature is almost in the history books.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1423, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call us at (402) 471-2628.