Brewer offers ‘last resort’ bill in Legislature to freeze property valuations

January 25, 2019

Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon on Thursday presented the Legislature’s Revenue Committee with what he described as a “last resort” proposal designed to apply pressure for enactment of meaningful property tax relief this year.

Brewer’s bill (LB158) would freeze assessed valuation of property for four years in an attempt to “cap property taxes at the 2019 level” for a period ending in 2023.

“In a perfect world, this Legislature will pass meaningful tax relief this season,” Brewer said, even though he recognizes that will be an “incredibly difficult” goal to achieve.

His proposal represents “a sad precaution,” he said, in effect offering “a life preserver” that may be needed toward the end of the legislative session to force some meaningful action on property tax relief this year.

The bill attracted support from the Nebraska Farm Bureau and six other agricultural organizations, along with the Lincoln Independent Business Association.

City, county and school representatives lined up alongside the Open Sky Policy Institute in opposing the proposal.

Taxpayers have experienced a huge increase in local property taxes during the last decade, Bruce Rieker, vice president of governmental relations at the Farm Bureau, told the committee.

A parade of opponents said the bill would have “harmful” or even “devastating” results in terms of financial support for local government programs and services.

“It’s not an effective way to address this issue,” Connie Knoche, education policy director at Open Sky, told the committee.

The projected reduction of property tax revenue was estimated at nearly $1.2 million for Lincoln and $5.4 million for Omaha in fiscal 2020-21, according to information provided from the cities and reported in a legislative fiscal note.

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