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Incoming senator speaks to concerned taxpayers

January 5, 2019

Incoming state senator Myron Dorn spoke at a meeting of the Gage Taxpayers Association Wednesday night to discuss a draft for a new sales tax bill he intends to propose to the Nebraska Legislature.

The mood in the room was optimistic about the bill, and many attendees took the opportunity to ask the senator about an issue that matters deeply to many.

Dorn said that he supports all facets of the effort to relive Gage County taxpayers of the tax burden that the federal judgement for the Beatrice 6 will impose. This includes other bills that will go before the legislature regarding the issue, and the ongoing court battle over the judgement.

Dorn shared news about the legal work, and said that the lawyers employed to work on the case had heard from the U.S. Supreme Court that the court was going to continue looking at the case until Jan. 18 so they can further study the county’s request for appeal.

“Don’t anybody get their hopes up.” Dorn said, “This doesn’t mean it’s going to be good bad or wrong, but that was a little bit of good news.”

The meeting of the Gage County Taxpayers Association was organized by Don Schuller, and also hosted a panel of guests from across the state to discuss the relationship between property taxes and education funding in Gage County.

Currently, Nebraskan counties cannot collect sales tax in a community where sales tax is already being collected in cases where a county is paying off a federal judgement. Dorn, the former Chairman of the Gage County Board of Supervisors, plans to introduce a bill that will change that, allowing Gage County to tap into another resource for paying off the $28.1 million it has been ordered to pay to the Beatrice 6.

The majority of the payment is likely to come from property taxes, but Dorn is hopeful that if passed in the state legislature, the bill will allow the County Board to take some pressure off of property taxpayers. The board previously voted to raise property taxes to their legal limit to pay off the judgement.

The bill specifically calls for a ½ cent increase in sales taxes across the entire county which would be imposed by a supermajority vote of the county board. The board recently passed a resolution to support Dorn’s bill unanimously.

“This would only be used to pay off the federal judgement.” Dorn said, “It’s designed strictly to give some relief to property taxes.”

He said he expects the bill to raise $1 million per year if passed.

Dorn was clear that the bill is not certain to pass, and he said the bill may even die in the revenue committee.

The Beatrice 6, Ada JoAnn Taylor, Thomas Winslow, James Dean, Kathleen Gonzalez, Debra Shelden and the estate of Joseph White served a combined 75 years in prison for the 1985 rape and murder of Beatrice resident Helen Wilson. DNA evidence eventually exonerated all six from involvement in the crime.

The group sued Gage County for violating their Civil rights. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently being asked to hear the case, though county officials say it is a long shot.

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