Property tax discussions continue and lawmakers take up revisions to the state budget this week. Check out details on key bills below and click HERE for an updated version of Nebraska Farm Bureau’s complete Bill Summary.

Property Tax Discussions Ongoing

Earlier this week the Legislature’s Revenue Committee advanced a property tax-related amendment that includes provisions of LB 974, (the mainline property tax bill) plus several concessions made to garner more votes to overcome a filibuster. Language of the amendment has yet to be released as there are discussions that another amendment could be forthcoming as negotiations continue. It appears the property tax amendment will be inserted in LB 1106, a "shell" bill which was prioritized by the Speaker of the Legislature, Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk.

State Budget Debate Underway

Senators gave first round approval to the mid-biennium budget adjustments to the state's budget this week. The bills would make adjustments in the current fiscal year ending June 30, 2020, as well as the next fiscal year, FY20-21. The state's General Fund (sales & income tax receipts) has improved significantly since last year. Actual and projected revenues have increased by $537.4 million since the end of last session. Importantly, for purposes of funding priorities like property tax relief, these budget adjustments yield a projected balance of $133.8 million above the 3 percent minimum reserve in FY20-21, and $431 million for the following biennium, for a total of $564.8 million over three years. These amounts constitute what will be available for additional appropriations or tax relief. For reference, LB 974 the property tax relief bill is projected to cost around $520 million over the same timeframe. The proposed budget adjustments include $272 million ($275 million distributed) in the Property Tax Credit Fund, $55.2 million for the state's share of the estimated $400 million in repair costs related to the 2019 floods, and $3.8 million for emergency repairs to reimburse the Gering Ft. Laramie Irrigation District for the Ft. Laramie Canal failure on July 17, 2019. Of the 35 bills referred to the Appropriations Committee this year (excluding the governor's mainline budget bills), 19 were incorporated into the Committee's proposal. Such bills would include LB 1026, which requested $2.5 million in FY20-21 for the University of Nebraska Daugherty Water for Food Institute for ag research purposes. The Committee proposed $500k to the Institute for FY20-21 (as well as out years) for these purposes.

USDA Working to Reduce Insurance Rates for Farmers Impacted by 2019 Breached Levees

USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) is reminding farmers in areas where levees breached in 2019 to review the impact those breaches may have on premium rates when considering crop insurance policy options for 2020. The deadline (Sales Closing Date) to update crop insurance policies or apply for coverage is March 16 for spring crops. Last spring and summer’s flooding caused more than 200 levee breaches on over 100 levee systems in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. Many of those levees are in the process of being repaired, but cropland behind levees that are not repaired to prior specifications may carry the highest premium rate classification in the county for the 2020 crop year. RMA also will consider premium rate adjustments for farmers in counties where levees have been temporarily or partially repaired before the Sales Closing Date or Earliest Planting Date if the repairs are certified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) or, if applicable, by a state-licensed and registered engineer. RMA will adjust the premium rate according to the level of protection the levee repair provides as indicated in the certification. However, if the repair is completed after those dates but before the crop is planted, producers can work with their insurance agents to submit a Written Agreement Request to their regional office, which will make premium rate determinations on a case-by-case basis. Farmers in counties with levee breaches should contact their crop insurance agent for more information and to discuss options. The counties affected in Nebraska include Nemaha and Otoe counties.  Click Here for more information.