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Gage County supervisors back countywide sales tax measure

January 3, 2019

BEATRICE, Neb. (AP) — Gage County supervisors voted to support legislation that would allow imposition of a countywide sales tax to help pay the $28.1 million owed to six people who were wrongfully convicted in a 1985 Beatrice murder.

Board chairman Myron Dorn outlined the proposal Wednesday at his last board meeting before joining the state Legislature next week to represent District 30.

Nebraska counties can’t collect sales taxes in communities that are collecting their own sales taxes, Dorn said. That includes Beatrice, which is Gage County’s largest city with nearly 12,300 residents and has a 1.5 percent sales tax. Dorn’s measure would allow a blanket sales tax over an entire county for a limited time and only for federal court judgments.

Dorn asked the board to pass a resolution backing the bill, saying such support could improve the bill’s odds of being passed.

“I don’t know how this bill will end up when it gets up there, if there will be changes to it or not or has a possibility of passing,” he said. “The way it is going to be proposed is only for the payment of a federal judgment. The sales tax will end when that judgment is all paid off, for however long of period that takes.”

Dorn estimated the half-percent tax the legislation would permit would generate around $1 million annually in Gage County.

The six people were wrongfully convicted for the rape and murder of Helen Wilson. They spent more than 75 years combined in prison until DNA evidence cleared them in 2008. Wilson’s death has since been linked to a former Beatrice resident who died in 1992.

The six sued the county and won the multimillion-dollar award — a jury decision affirmed by a federal appeals court panel in June. County officials still hope the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn it.

The board approved a measure in September to raise the county property tax levy enough to generate an extra $3.8 million annually that can be applied to the judgment.

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