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Gage County Taxpayers, Legislative Bill 472 was heard Wednesday March 13th at the Capitol. It would allow our County Board to enact additional sales tax on our County simply with a vote by the Gage County Board of Supervisors.

This is a poorly disguised tax shift to the citizens of Beatrice because former County Supervisors failed to maintain insurance covering liability for wrongful convictions, caused by egregious conduct of County elected officials and employees. In the aftermath of the infamous “Beatrice 6” debacle it would be utter foolishness for any Nebraska County to not now have adequate insurance for such court judgments.

This proposed law is akin to shutting the barn door after the horse is already out. Property tax is currently the method of payment for the Gage County judgment. The problem with this new ploy is there are no towns or villages in Gage County, other than Beatrice, with any businesses left that will provide any significant sales tax revenue. Beatrice residents would be punished even more.

The hue and cry for some is farmers pay the brunt of the property tax. Unless you live in a car or under a bridge everyone pays property tax, and those who do not own property pay their share through their rent. Large purchases for farm equipment and parts are exempt from sales tax.

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In 2018 owners of residential property in Gage County paid taxes on 93% of assessed value, commercial owners 100% of assessed value, and farmland owners 72% of assessed value. Proportionally, owners of farmland land have a much better position of taxes paid for property value (wealth), notwithstanding additional income from government subsidies in the event of low profit margins or adverse weather crop damage.

Retail businesses and the “Average Joe” have no such protections. When their profit margins are in the tank or jobs dry up they just get to suck it up. The proposed new law at the minimum should be restricted to a vote of all the citizens of our County.

The County Board should not have the right to force a new tax or tax shift on all of us without voter approval. I have not seen or heard of any support or endorsement of this proposed new tax and attempted tax shift by Beatrice City Officials, the Chamber of Commerce, or the Main Street organization. Hopefully the Legislature will not enact this proposed law in any form. Contact your State Senators and encourage them to oppose this new tax and tax shift.

Gary A. Barnard, Beatrice

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