LINCOLN, Neb. – Addressing the property tax burden on Nebraskans should be the top priority for the Nebraska Legislature in the waning days of the 2016 legislative session. With less than 20 days of the 60-day legislative session remaining, Nebraska Farm Bureau is urging state lawmakers to refocus their efforts and come together to act on measures that would provide property tax relief. While also moving the state forward in property tax and school funding reforms to lessen the burden on property taxes over the long haul, said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president, March 15. The comments were made during a news conference held on the steps of the State Capitol with members of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Board of Directors and farmers and ranchers from across the state.
“Nebraskans want property tax relief. It’s all I hear about from members. I know senators have heard it on the campaign trail and they’ve heard it while serving in the body. This has to be a priority. The clock is ticking. Doing nothing is not an option, particularly for farm and ranch families that have seen a dramatic downward swing in profitability,” said Nelson.
Property taxes paid by farmers and ranchers on agricultural land have increased 176 percent statewide over the last 10 years, increasing 12 percent alone in 2015. While property taxes have skyrocketed, the ability for farm and ranch families to pay property taxes has not. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service is forecasting net farm income will decline for the third straight year in 2016, following a 38 percent decline in 2015.
“Any perception that the agriculture economy is humming along is simply inaccurate. Nebraskans, need the legislature to act on property taxes, particularly farmers and ranchers who face a rapidly deteriorating agriculture economy,” said Nelson. In remarks, Nelson also cautioned the Legislature about spending precious legislative time debating a proposed constitutional amendment to protect farmers and ranchers “Right to Farm.”
“We understand the concerns about the issues that have led the “Right to Farm” constitutional amendment to the Legislature. While important, that issue clearly needs more study and work before being debated. Property taxes are the priority for farmers and ranchers and “Right to Farm” shouldn’t take away from the legislature’s efforts to make progress in that area,” said Nelson.
With all the major pieces of legislation related to property taxes remaining in both the Legislature’s Education and Revenue Committees, Nelson encouraged the members of the legislature to work with their colleagues to advance a package of legislation that would:
- Provide alternative school funding sources (LB 883 – school foundation aid)
- Provide some form of spending restraint on schools and local governments to address the increasing demands on property taxes (LBs 882, 958, 959)
- Slow spikes in agricultural land valuations (LB 717)
- Provide new revenue sources for providing property tax relief (LB 1013 – cigarette tax increase)
“There’s not a lot of time left in the session, but if the Legislature makes property taxes a priority some positive things can be done before lawmakers close out the session. It’s critical that Nebraskans know the Legislature takes this issue seriously and is committed to moving this issue forward,” said Nelson.