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Opinion - Opinion
 
Groene at the Legislature: State aid, NRD taxes, TIF Tell North Platte what you think
 
Photo by Nebraska Unicameral
Mike Groene

We are at a point in the session where committee hearings are wrapping up and floor debate on the priority bills of senators and committees are in full swing.

We have also reached the time where we start meeting four instead of five days a week, which comes just in time to save friendships, avoid fistfights and maintain good governing.

Legislation comes fast to the body when action is constant, time is lacking to inform oneself on upcoming legislation, work on your own bills with your colleagues, and have time to go back home where sanity prevails.

It is not that work is not done on the fifth day. It is just common sense that if one can have time to study issues a couple of days a week, one can avoid bad legislation caused by uninformed votes, or worse, by votes due to political friendships or persuasion by the lobby.

This week we held the education hearing on LB 409, legislation to adjust the state aid to education formula (TEEOSA) to match the appropriations committee’s proposed $1 billion state aid to public schools.

Although the proposed state aid is an increase of $20 million over last year, it is below the formula’s expected $67 million increase. It is not a simple task to fairly adjust a flawed TEEOSA formula. Since no proponents, but many opponents, testified on the bill, it was apparent LB 409 was fair to all; it will lower funding to all sizes of districts.

NRD tax limit

LB 98 extends the sunset date on an additional 3-cent taxing authority (per hundred dollars of valuation) for 8 out of 23 Natural Resource Districts (NRDs), where groundwater is designated as over- or fully-appropriated.

The extension would be from 2017 to 2026. 

All NRDs have a base taxing authority of 4.5 cents. NRDs have been a beneficiary of the massive increases in property valuations. Taxing revenues have increased 77% over the last 10 years. Another factor is the 2009 State Supreme Court case, Garey vs. Nebraska Dept. of Natural Resources, which reaffirmed our state constitution’s mandate that property taxes can’t be used for state purposes.

Property taxes can’t be used to build pipelines or maintain property or infrastructure whose purpose is to satisfy state surface water agreements with another state, such as the Republican River compact or the Platte River Agreement. 

Eliminating the tax would give Lincoln County residents $45 of tax relief on a home valued at $150,000, or $250 on an average quarter-section of farm ground. 

Incentives for housing

LB 496 would add new housing projects designated for workforce purposes (regardless of building site) to what is allowable under TIF projects. If this passes, it will put small housing contractors out of business or it would be foolish of anybody to build a house unless they would be granted TIF.

If enacted, it will cause a huge property tax shift to hardworking small businesses, home owners and agriculture land. After all, someone must pay the taxes to afford public safety, good schools and maintain government infrastructure.
It has been prioritized so it has a good chance to become law.

I have introduced LB 599, which would consider all new development infrastructure and building construction as business inventory until it is occupied, leased, or sold. To a contractor, new development is business inventory, not unlike an automobile on a dealer’s lot, where property taxes are not charged until the vehicle is retailed.

I believe LB 599 would be a fairer way to aid home construction and would eliminate government picking winners and losers in tax relief.

The hearing on the bill was Thursday (March 9) in the Revenue Committee.

Horse massage permit

Also on March 9, LB 596 allows for an exemption from licensing by the Department of Health and Human Services for those in the profession of Horse Massage Therapy.  Presently, there have been no licenses for horse massage therapists issued by DHHS. 

There are Nebraska citizens that have experience to do this, and current regulations keep them from helping horse owners (because the regulations are onerous.)

Transparency

On March 13, LB 594 will provide for limited liability companies applying for economic development programs to file amended certificates of organization. This will allow for transparency about those that are applying for economic development programs. The bill provides transparency to the public about who is receiving tax incentives.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729 with any comments, questions, or concerns.


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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 3/14/2017
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