Antiquated tax code hinders property tax relief

Nebraska’s economy has evolved, but the state’s tax code has not. For decades, property owners have been left to fill in the gaps as the state neglects its obligation to fund schools and other public services. For actual property tax relief to be achieved, the Unicameral must pass legislation that modernizes the tax system and raises state revenue.

While Nebraska’s overall economy remains reliant upon agriculture, trends show a move away from a dependence on manufacturing and goods to a knowledge and service-based economy. Our state’s tax system does not reflect this decades-long transition.

U.S. Department of Labor data shows in 2007 there were 957,000 non-farm jobs in Nebraska. By 2017, this grew to 1,018,000, a rate of 6.4 percent—but this growth was not uniform. In total, manufacturing jobs fell 3 percent while service jobs grew by 16 percent.

Despite growth of the service industry, nearly 60 percent of funding for public schools still comes from local sources like property taxes. This has left many rural Nebraskans, including farmers and ranchers, with high property tax rates.

Introduced this session, Legislative Bill 314 seeks to responsibly right this imbalance. By taxing the goods and services where Nebraskans are spending their expendable incomes, the state can raise revenue. New revenues are essential to even begin discussing property tax relief. Legislative Bill 314 would modernize the state’s antiquated tax system, provide immediate property tax relief, while funding essential state services. Property owners have waited too long for a balanced tax code—it’s time for the state to act.