The Unicameral’s tax policy committee has only been in office for slightly more than a week. But it’s already clear from the legislative bills being introduced that the eight senators on the committee plan to put a variety of proposals forward as they negotiate a plan for property tax reform to be considered by the whole Legislature.
Here’s the Revenue Committee roster. Five of the members are new to the committee:
Chairperson Sen. Lou Ann Linehan
Sen. Tom Briese
Sen. Sue Crawford
Sen. Curt Friesen
Sen. Mike Groene
Sen. Mark Kolterman
Sen. Brett Lindstrom
Sen. John McCollister
Though the committee is composed of seven Republicans and one Democrat, each of the senators brings their own perspective and priorities on how tax policy should be changed.
Chairperson Linehan, who campaigned on reducing property and income taxes, is carrying a proposed constitutional amendment on behalf of the governor that would cap the allowed growth of local property tax revenue. The new chair has also introduced placeholder bills for concerns like sales and income tax rates, in the likely event the committee will combine a variety of legislative proposals in a compromise.
Sen. Lindstrom is sponsoring a companion bill to that effort which establishes a legal floor for the size of the Property Tax Credit program.
Sen. Briese and Friesen, both farmers, are co-sponsoring a bill supported by farm and education groups that would enact a variety of tax increases, along with expansion of the state’s sales tax base, to add funds to the Property Tax Credit program and the state education aid formula.
Sen. Crawford, from Bellevue, represents the Offutt Air Force Base area and is a supporter of a proposed 50 percent income tax exemption for military retirement pay.
Sen. Kolterman, from Seward, represents a district that includes York. In addition to the local school district being active on the school funding debate, the city has faced severe financial issues that may require enormous property tax increases in the years ahead.
Sen. Groene, also chair of the Education Committee, has focused his attention on changes to education funding and their impact on property taxes, but he is also a past tax issue activist and co-founder of the Platte Institute, who considers himself a watchdog for taxpayers.
Though many would say Sen. Groene and Sen. McCollister are quite different, McCollister is yet another Platte Institute alumnus serving on the Revenue Committee. He was the Institute’s Executive Director in its early days and has staked out support for expanding Nebraska’s sales tax base as a key for tax reform.
While it’s always difficult to predict what will happen in the Revenue Committee, this new group is made up of serious tax reformers who see a need for change to the state’s tax policies. The question is whether they can reach a consensus on what brand of change Nebraska really needs.