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New property tax relief petition drive set to begin

August 8, 2018

A new billion-dollar property tax reduction petition proposal has been submitted to the Nebraska secretary of state with the goal of gaining a slot on the 2020 election ballot while applying pressure on the 2019 Legislature to act.

“But we’ve lost faith in the Legislature,” petition sponsor Doug Kagan of Omaha said Tuesday during a telephone interview.

“We’re acting out of frustration,” he said. “We’re submitting this to the ‘second house’ to let the people decide” since Nebraska’s one-house Legislature continues to fail to act.

This proposal will come in the form of an amendment to the state constitution, Kagan said, rather than as an initiative that would enact a law.

Kagan heads Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, an organization that promotes limited government and fiscal restraint.

Initial language in the proposal would provide taxpayers with a state income tax refund or credit equal to 35 percent of local property taxes paid, beginning in 2021.

That would open a huge hole in funding to support state government, leaving it up to the Legislature and the governor to determine how to increase state revenue and/or reduce funding for state programs and services.

“As soon as we get language (guidance) back from the secretary of state, we’ll start gathering petition signatures,” Kagan said.

“We’ll have almost two years to do that, but we’re not waiting. We’re not depending on the Legislature.

“We’re going to forge ahead with this petition drive as if there is not any other solution. We will go as fast as possible.”

Kagan said a coalition of farmers, ranchers and homeowners are ready now to work together for property tax relief after years of divided efforts.

A statewide petition drive to place a billion-dollar property tax relief initiative on the 2018 general election ballot was suddenly abandoned in April after the Legislature could not agree on a tax reform proposal heavily weighted toward property tax relief.

“I was disappointed that earlier drive was withdrawn,” Kagan said. “We never understood that. I still don’t know why that collapsed.”

A comprehensive bill that centered on property tax relief while also reducing the corporate income tax rate and funding workforce development initiatives was shelved by state senators after it fell eight votes short of demonstrating the support it would need to overcome a filibuster.

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