Nebraska legislation aims at limiting local government taxing ability

Posted at 6:34 PM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 20:17:30-05

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — It might be the signature property tax legislation of 2021.

It wouldn't necessarily limit your property taxes. The constitutional amendment would, however, potentially curb how much those property taxes go up.

Shane Greckel, a northeast Nebraska farmer, says farm revenues have gone down while his property taxes have taken a sharp increase.

“People talk about surprise medical billing. Well, we have surprise property tax billing,” he says.

He's in favor of a constitutional amendment that limits how much his local governments, along with his school board, can raise his taxes annually.

“I can predict it. I can predict every year, this is what its going to be," says Greckel.

The constitutional amendment from Revenue Committee Chair Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn limits the tax taking of political subdivisions to three percent annually.

The bill’s aim is to stop school, community college and county boards from raising taxes by unnecessary amounts.

Gov. Pete Ricketts testified Wednesday, saying property taxes are going up much higher than inflation.

“You can’t outstrip the ability of Nebraska families to pay these taxes by allowing property taxes to go up faster than inflation and faster than your income growth. This is what makes people mad," says Ricketts.

There are some exceptions. A political subdivision can vote to hold an election to override the three percent if they need to.

It also accounts for "real growth," meaning if a school district like Millard grows by five percent annually, they instead could raise their tax taking by eight percent.

“Real growth is outside and we have a lot of real growth in Douglas County,” says Linehan.

Opponents like Dennis Meyer, who budgets for Lancaster County, told the committee that the bill will severely hamper them when the growing county needs more infrastructure.

“With the three percent, it’s really going to limit roads and bridges that we can do. Or how quickly we can do some of them,” says Meyer.

Others like Lynn Rex, executive director of League of Nebraska Municipalities, says sometimes inflation is higher than the three percent figure.

“You have no flexibility to deal with issues like this. And that’s problematic,” says Rex.

If passed by the legislature, the amendment would then go on the ballot to be voted on by Nebraskans.

A similar bill, that is not a constitutional amendment, also had a hearing Wednesday.