“Simple fairness dictates that government must not raise taxes on families struggling to pay their bills,” President Ronald Reagan declared in his 1984 State of the Union Address. With our state’s high taxes, these words apply to Nebraska now as much as they did to the country then.

Right now, Nebraska’s high property taxes are hurting the state’s hardworking ag producers and families. National rankings show Nebraska has the 11th highest property taxes in the nation, and the highest of the surrounding states.

The numbers are borne out in the stories of Nebraskans.

One young farmer, Julius, who farms corn and soybeans near Hampton, told my office that high property taxes are hindering the ability of young farmers to get into farming by driving cash rents higher and discouraging property ownership. High property taxes make it difficult for Julius to invest in his fourth generation family farm. Julius operates a second business that relies less on land in part to help offset the lower margins incurred by high property taxes. While Julius’ industriousness is admirable, Nebraska’s ag producers shouldn’t have to start a second business to make income to cover their local property tax burden.

Julius isn’t the only story. Quentin, a row crop farmer and hog producer near Humboldt, experiences firsthand how high property taxes are in Nebraska compared to other states. Quentin farms on his own land in Nebraska as well as land in Kansas. The property taxes on the land in Nebraska are twice as much as the taxes in Kansas. This has prevented Quentin from investing in his farm equipment and using more innovative farm practices.

These stories demonstrate the dramatic impact high property taxes are having on Nebraska families.

This year, the Legislature has an opportunity to make a difference for Nebraskans like Julius and Quentin. That’s why Senator Jim Smith, Chair of the Revenue Committee, and I have worked together to develop the Nebraska Tax Cuts and Opportunity Act. This bill is major property tax relief for Nebraska’s ag producers and families.

The bill will bring tax relief by restructuring existing property tax credits as a refundable credit on state taxes. This credit will ensure that Nebraskans receive the credits, not out-of-state landowners. Over 10 years, the bill would provide over $4 billion in property tax relief, and relief will continue to grow over time.

Additionally, the proposal uses existing tax credits to achieve a modest reduction in Nebraska’s high income tax rates. It will also fund a much-needed investment in workforce development.

The Property Tax Cuts and Opportunities Act would bring one of the largest tax breaks the state has ever provided while also protecting important priorities for Nebraska families like K-12 education funding and public safety programs. It’s important to deliver tax relief for Nebraskans through the legislative process. The legislative process can help ensure that tax relief occurs in an orderly manner that doesn’t result in a tax increase or disruptive budget impacts. If you want your voice to be heard, call your State Senator and urge them to support LB947, so we can get tax relief done this year. Contact information for your state senator can be found at www.nebraskalegislature.gov.

Nebraska is already known as a great state. If we want to continue to grow, however, we must address our high taxes. Lowering taxes will help our farmers and ranchers manage through low commodity prices and give homeowners financial breathing room. It will make Nebraska an even more attractive state to live, work, and raise a family. People and businesses want to move here for our quality of life and talented workforce. But, an unfriendly tax system will be a detriment to talent and business attraction.

Working together, we can bring tax relief to Nebraska in 2018 that fits within our budget. This fiscal responsibility will set Nebraska up for growth and prosperity for years to come. If you want to voice your support for tax relief or have ideas on how we can provide further relief to Nebraskans, call my office at 402-471-2244, or email us at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov.

Outbrain