Keeping the "Good Life" in Nebraska

Legislative Resolution 155 created the Tax Modernization Committee, which will consider six tax issues - fairness, competitiveness, simplicity and compliance, stability, adequacy, and complementariness (how the system’s parts affect each other). It’s a large assignment and some goals may push in opposite directions. The Committee is meeting this fall to take testimony, review the tax system and potentially recommend reforms. 

America became a powerhouse for many reasons, including people investing through government in infrastructure that fostered economic activity. Railroads, interstates, rural electricity, homesteading and Land Grant colleges, these investments allowed people to build farms, ranches, businesses and families. We should keep funding similar projects, make them relevant to the 21st Century, but fairly, in ways that recognize everyone’s responsibility to contribute.

My grandfather, a refugee from Nazi Germany, used to say it was a privilege to pay taxes because it meant you had income or property. In Germany he was denied both. Everyone dislikes taxes, but I don’t think highly of those that want tax breaks at the expense of others.

The Tax Modernization Committee’s competitiveness charge, “attracting well-paying jobs and investment while keeping and protecting existing jobs,” concerns me. Who could be against that? However, if we attract low-paying jobs and the rest of us have to pay to fill in the benefits, fairness is diminished.

With a tax system that supports our great schools, roads, a first-class Internet, improved state parks and recreation, companies and people will want to come and share Nebraska's Good Life.

This opinion was written by Charles Shapiro, a Center for Rural Affairs Advisory Board Member and a soil scientist from Wayne, NE. You can contact him at

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