Right now, I’m fielding at least two phone calls a day from members about property taxes. The opinions have varied, but there has been a consensus: we need something. The legislative session’s absence of dealing with property taxes has left members questioning how to find property tax relief. Moving forward, LIBA will be dedicated to encouraging a proposal that is in line with our organization’s philosophy on taxation.

We all know Nebraska’s property taxes are insane, that’s why we are talking about it. But, we need to take a step back and consider Nebraska’s tax challenge from all angles. Nebraska ranks number seven in the nation in highest property taxes (1.84%). My first thought was, “Well there are a handful of states that have no state income tax, they must be the ones ahead of us.” Nope; there are nine states with no state income taxes and two have higher property tax rates than us. Texas who is just in front of us at number 6 (1.9%) and New Hampshire that ranks at number three (2.15%). The other states with no PIT, Alaska #20, Florida #25, Nevada #30, South Dakota #16, Washington #23, Tennessee #38 and Wyoming at #44 whose property tax rate is one-third of ours at 0.61%. So much for that theory. Maybe their sales taxes are through the roof, Nebraska is at 6.97%, putting us in the middle of the pack at #28. Nope; four are higher. Tennessee is the highest at 9.5%, Florida is basically even with us at 7.02% the other four are lower including New Hampshire that has no sales tax to go along with no personal income tax making them the 49th most tax friendly state in the Union despite their property tax being a mere .31% higher than ours.

In my opinion, the tax plans on the table are simply a tax shift that offers too many exemptions which lay an unfair burden on others. We need to remove a good portion of these exemptions which will widen the tax base allowing our sales tax to be lowered. We also need to put caps on every governmental subdivision. It’s time we start living within our means.

Nebraska is an extremely unfriendly state when it comes to taxes and that bleeds into several other problems. I’m asked all the time “Why do so many young people leave Nebraska?” and as painful as it is, the answer is simple: “Because Nebraska doesn’t want them here.” We can’t attract workers or businesses and it is time we take this problem seriously.

Nebraska does not have a property tax crisis, we have a spending crisis. It is time we make some hard decisions to correct this problem.