Small Towns News

Childhood experiences spark lifelong passion for rural living

Rural places are close to my heart because I have seen the value of them firsthand. I am from Monticello, Iowa, which is a town of about 4,000 people, three stop lights, and one grocery store. Growing up, driving 35 minutes to see a movie used to frustrate me. But, as I’ve gotten older, I have truly been able to see the value of my town and what the way of life contributes to people.

A once-in-a-generation opportunity for tax reform and education funding 

LB 1084, Sen. Tom Briese’s combined property tax relief and school funding bill, is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Let me explain this bold statement.

In the mid-1960s, two generations ago, the state of Nebraska ended statewide property tax. At about the same time, the state began collecting both sales and income taxes. These were all bold moves for generating income for the state.

A property tax lesson from Arthur County

Property taxes have more than doubled in the past decade. The price of cattle has not. This has created significant challenges for those of us in production agriculture.

When this trend first began, I was quick to blame our local administrators and school board for the burden placed on property tax payers. I believed the only way to control the rise in property taxes was for schools to mitigate spending at the local level.

Nebraska's economy has evolved – our tax code has not

While Nebraska’s economy remains reliant upon agriculture, the broader economy, following national trends, has moved away from a dependence on manufacturing and goods to knowledge and service. Nebraska’s tax code does not reflect that decades long trend.

The prior economic mix meant the state did not need to tax seldom-used service. Despite this shift, sales tax exemptions for services, such as dry cleaning and landscaping, remain in the state’s tax code. This array of exemptions has imbalanced the three legged tax stool, leaving it leaning heavily upon property taxes.

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