Unfunded Mandates Constitutional Amendment Gets First-Round Approval

     Nebraska lawmakers have given initial approval to a measure that could require the state to reimburse cities, school districts and other local governments anytime the state imposes a new expense on them. 

     The proposed constitutional amendment advanced through the first of three required votes in the Legislature, 34-5. If lawmakers pass it, the amendment would appear on the November general election ballot where voters would approve or reject it. 

     The measure was introduced by State Senator Carol Blood of Bellevue to help local governments reduce their reliance on property taxes. She told her colleagues it’s a good policy.

Blood offered as an example of unfunded state mandates that have raised property taxes a law requiring additional court personnel paid for by counties.

    Property owners often complain to state lawmakers about their high property tax bills with local governments arguing that their expenses, and in turn taxes, are partly driven by unfunded state mandates.

      Senator Myron Dorn is a former Gage County Commissioner and said a frequent topic of discussion at county board meetings was what the legislature was going to do next that would cost the county more. 

     The 35-4 first-round margin of approval is a bit misleading because several senators said they still had problems with the measure such as local governments submitting inflated cost estimates that would keep the Legislature from approving proposals.