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New Nebraska compromise property tax relief plan emerges

New Nebraska compromise property tax relief plan emerges

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Legislature 7.30

Speaker Jim Scheer talks with a legislative aide before the session on July 30.

The Legislature's Revenue Committee on Tuesday rushed to the floor a last-ditch property tax relief compromise package negotiated by seven legislative leaders in the fading days of a session scheduled to adjourn next week.

The proposal would increase state property tax relief by $125 million in the first year, gradually rising to $375 million by the fifth year and then increasing at the same rate as the statewide increase in property tax valuation.

Benefits would be delivered in the form of a refundable state income tax credit for local school property taxes paid, and that new property tax offset would be in addition to the $275 million in property tax relief currently provided by the state property tax credit cash fund.

Included in the grand bargain proposal that emerged from lengthy, and sometimes contentious, negotiations by legislative leaders gathered together by Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk were compromise changes in two other major legislative bills whose fate had been tied to property tax relief by a band of rural senators led by Sen. Tom Briese of Albion. 

Funding for a new business development tax incentives package was sharply limited in the early years of its new life, beginning at $25 million and rising to $150 million in its fifth year. 

And state funding to help build an ambitious $2.3 billion University of Nebraska Medical Center project, which is centered on acquisition of federal designation and funding for an all-hazard and disaster response center on the Omaha campus, was delayed for four years.

Eventually, the state is expected to pledge $300 million in funding support for the project.

The Revenue Committee sent the new package to the floor on a 6-0 vote, with Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue not voting. Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte was absent at the time of the vote.

The package was adopted as an amendment to LB1107, a pending property tax revision bill, and rushed to the floor for debate with five days remaining in the 2020 session. Debate is likely to begin as early as Wednesday.

Ahead lie a series of barriers, chiefly the requirement that the proposal will need to gather support from at least 33 of the 49 state senators to avoid being derailed by a legislative filibuster mounted by its opponents.

Revenue Committee Chairwoman Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn said she believes "prospects on the floor are very good.

"Everybody won't get everything they want, but everybody's going to get something," she said.

Looking ahead beyond the proposal, Linehan said: "We have more work to do on property taxes."

The new package replaces an earlier proposal devised by the committee that would have provided property tax relief by increasing state aid to schools and reducing property valuations.

That plan was sharply opposed by schools, largely because it included new spending limitations and was blocked during first-round consideration. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

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