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NE senator hopes to meet with schools on property tax bill

Posted at 3:36 PM, Feb 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-20 16:36:30-05

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska senator who is pushing the Legislature’s main bill to lower property taxes said Thursday she hopes to reach a deal with opponents who are trying to derail it out of concern that it could hurt the state’s K-12 public schools.

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, of Omaha, said she and other senators will try to find an agreement with school officials who are lobbying against the measure.

“We want to sit down with the schools and see how we can go forward,” she said during legislative debate.

The bill has won support from farm and business groups and Gov. Pete Ricketts because it would lower taxes that have risen over the last decade. But school administrators, school boards and the state teachers’ union argue it would hinder their long-term spending flexibility.

“This bill is bad for Nebraska and it’s bad for our kids,” said Sen. Wendy DeBoer, of Bennington, who opposed the measure.

The bill would boost state aid to schools by about $520 million over three years and redistribute it so that smaller, rural schools get a larger increase. In exchange, it would lower property taxes by restricting school districts’ ability to tax and spend and requiring voter approval of certain tax increases.

Lawmakers debated the bill Thursday but passed over it without taking a vote. To bring it to a vote, Linehan has to show that she has support from at least 33 of the Legislature’s 49 state senators. It’s unclear whether she has the votes.