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Don Walton: Familiar property tax legislative battle looming

November 26, 2018

Gov. Pete Ricketts has defined the playing field for property tax relief in the 2019 legislative session as he sees it.

The fundamentals for Ricketts are “controlling spending, reforming how property is valued for tax purposes and avoiding tax shifts.”

Nothing really new there, but the governor’s position as stated in a column sets the stage for yet another legislative battle over property tax reduction that looks a lot like previous skirmishes and is likely to result in the same ending.

It is reductions in the rate of growth in state spending that have allowed the state to increase property tax relief funding along with the amount of state aid to local governments, Ricketts wrote.

Once again, the governor is proposing a change in the way property is valued for tax purposes, moving from market value to an income potential assessment system.

Ricketts made it crystal clear that he will not accept legislative proposals to increase other taxes to provide more immediate property tax relief.

Meanwhile, some rural senators remain focused on substantial property tax reductions now, the kind of immediate relief that could be provided only through increases in other tax rates and/or changes in tax credits, deductions and exemptions.

Looking ahead to the prospects for immediate and substantial property tax relief in the 2019 legislative session, I am quickly reminded of something former baseball pitcher and philosopher Dan Quisenberry once said.

“I have seen the future and it’s much like the present, only longer,” he said.

* * *

Finishing up:

* The evolving slow-motion administrative tie between UNO and the University of Nebraska Medical Center has potential long-range implications for UNL. A look back at UNL’s losing effort to remain in the Association of American Universities in 2011 is a reminder of how important that connection with the Medical Center can be in shaping and defining the relative prestige of a university.

* Along with alarm about foreign interference in our elections should come alarm about domestic interference, including voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering and the U.S. Supreme Court’s green light for virtually unlimited campaign money, much of which remains hidden in the darkness, and all of which can determine and dominate our elections.

* After last Monday’s high-scoring NFL shootout with the Chiefs, Rams Coach Sean McVay said both teams were able to “deliver a great product tonight.” Product, not game, a jarring reminder of TV’s commercialization of sports.

* The recent five-year look back is a reminder of what a catalyst Pinnacle Bank Arena has been in sparking energy, enthusiasm, growth and development in Lincoln, turning a sleepy community into a dynamic, aspirational city. There should be a statue of Rip Van Winkle in the Haymarket, or a bar named for him.

* Senators in Nebraska’s non-partisan 2019 Legislature: 30 Republicans, 18 Democrats. One registered non-partisan. That’s Ernie.

* Jeff Fortenberry met with the Finnish foreign minister in Washington last week. No word on whether the minister brought his rake.

* Omaha bakery owner Chris Janicek is first to announce his candidacy for the Senate in Nebraska in 2020. Janicek finished second in the Democratic Senate primary election this year.

* The latest U.S. climate change assessment represents a dramatic call for action, but we all know it won’t happen. Unless grandparents decide to step up now to protect their grandchildren, and the children that follow, demanding clean energy action even at the cost of marginally higher utility bills.

* This was a different Husker football season. This team improved from week to week and never, ever gave up. Quisenberry might say we have seen the future and it’s much, much different than the recent past.

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