Property tax relief is a dead issue this session, Sen. John Stinner says

May 24, 2019

LINCOLN — During a Thursday morning conference call, District 48 State Senator John Stinner of Gering said long nights and a possible early adjournment has senators working overtime and working together to clean up pending legislation before the end of the session.

Officially, the 2019 legislative session ends June 6. But Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer announced they will finish early and adjourn on May 31.

“We have 83 bills left on final reading,” Stinner said. “A lot of that will be taken care of today (Thursday). The governor has approved 172 bills and we’ve delivered the budget to him. He should be looking at it over Memorial Day.”

The Legislature’s submitted budget includes a 2.9% increase in expenditures while the governor’s budget called for a 3.1% hike.

“We tried to address property tax relief in our budget and included $275 million,” Stinner said. “Additional property tax relief legislation is a dead issue for this session.’

Stinner was referring to LB 183, which would have reduced ag land valuations solely for the purpose of educational bonds. Thirty-three votes were needed to pass the legislation, but only 23 senators approved.

An amendment was proposed to LB 183 that would have ended about 20 exemptions for non-business related services, as well as applying sales tax to bottled water, soda, candy and ice.

“We did put in another $51 million per year in property tax relief,” Stinner said. “My number has always been a billion dollars, so we’re about 25.5% to where we need to be to get property taxes back in line with other taxes.”

Another bill Stinner is working on is LB 657, which would authorize and regulate the growing, processing and handling of industrial hemp and hemp products. It’s currently on final reading.

“We needed to get strong safeguards in place that would satisfy the county attorneys,” he said. “Many of them were concerned about the safety aspects.”

Stinner said hemp is a crop we could use in western Nebraska and local growers have told him it’s something they could support. He also expressed hope the local area could get a plant to process the plant from growers.

In addition to requiring less water, industrial hemp requires fewer inputs such as herbicide and fertilizer to grow.

“I’ve already had three or four farmers stop me in the parking lot asking when we’re going to get hemp. People at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center told me they see real potential for it, especially on some of our more arid acres. I think the fit is OK as an alternative crop.”

Starr Lehl, Scottsbluff’s economic development director, participated in the call and asked Stinner about LB 424 that would allow municipalities throughout the state to create or join land banks.

Land banks allow municipalities to acquire, manage and redevelop vacant, blighted or tax delinquent properties for potential affordable housing. Currently, only municipalities in metropolitan Douglas and Sarpy County have that authority.

The bill was Stinner’s priority this session, but the bill was unable to get enough votes to advance from general file. Sponsors plan to reintroduce the legislation next session.

“We came just short of advancing that bill, so it has support,” Stinner said. “I think it’s a good bill for us and it fits us as well as it does Omaha.”

Lehl said there are numerous dilapidated properties in our local area and she thinks the legislation would continue to bring western Nebraska communities together to work on providing more affordable housing to help grow our workforce.

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