Senators staking out positions on property tax ballot initiative

Senators staking out positions on property tax ballot initiative

Most voters probably don’t even know yet that a campaign for a property tax ballot initiative (increasingly called “the 35 Percent Solution”) is getting organized.

The effort, led by the TRUE Nebraskans campaign, has until July to submit the signatures needed for a constitutional amendment, which would provide a state rebate for 35% of local property taxes.

But Nebraska state senators are already making their positions known, as the initiative could evolve into a 2020 campaign issue.

So far, Sens. Steve Erdman, Steve Halloran, Tom Brewer, and Dave Murman are the most vocal proponents for the constitutional amendment, but Revenue Committee Sens. Mike Groene and Tom Briese have also shown their support.

We asked senators about the initiative at our past town halls in North Platte, Norfolk, and Omaha. You can check out the videos at the bottom of this post.

Meanwhile, Revenue Committee Chair Sen. Lou Ann Linehan spoke to News Channel Nebraska’s Joe Jordan providing a long list of objections to the policy, some of which we’ve also stated in the past when the initiative was a legislative bill.

Now that an initiative is being considered, we are letting each side duke it out and will do our best to offer helpful analysis so Nebraskans learn about the issue and make up their own minds.

Both sides (which may depart from the usual partisan alliances) have big questions to answer.

Opponents must offer a significant, alternative vision for property tax reform to have the credibility to say voters should set the initiative aside.

Voter initiatives are not necessarily a bad approach given the challenges the Legislature has faced. After all, even Gov. Ricketts has a constitutional amendment proposal to limit property taxes that he has wanted to refer to voters.

For the supporters of the 35 Percent Solution, their challenge will be addressing the reality that their policy will undoubtedly require major change.

My two cents? Whatever the flaws of a state tax credit to pay 35% of our property taxes, it is no more inconceivable than anything else state government does right now.

There are many other tax credits, tax exemptions, and spending programs, like the property tax credit relief fund, that would absolutely have to be done away with by the 2021 Legislature if voters decided this was how they wanted the state to spend a large share of its money.

Voters may not know all of these details going into the polls, but if they approve the measure, senators will have to balance fulfilling the spirit of what voters demanded along with passing policies that actually pay for it.

Local governments, in cooperation with the Legislature, may also have to look at other ways to pay their bills to keep the cost of the policy in check.

This is all hard stuff, but Nebraskans have proven themselves more than capable over the last century at figuring out whether or not to move forward with various ballot initiatives and then how to implement them if approved. This will just be their latest opportunity in the year ahead.

North Platte Property Tax Reform Town Hall:

Norfolk Property Tax Reform Town Hall:

Omaha Property Tax Reform Town Hall:

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