An Americans for Prosperity tax reform rally brought about 25 people -- many from conservative tax freedom and tea party groups -- to the Capitol's west steps at noon Wednesday.
Bob and Doris Roberts came from Gretna for the windy, chilly rally and a hearing that followed on a bill (LB405) that would eliminate state income taxes and remove about $2.4 billion in exemptions to sales taxes, many of those from business and agriculture.
The Robertses, who are retired, moved to the Omaha area about seven years ago from Bettendorf, Iowa.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t have 500 people,” Bob Roberts said.
They support eliminating state income taxes, they said.
“I just hope everybody looks at it positively with the idea in mind, then (they) work out the differences in the industry,” Bob Roberts said. “The city of Omaha is all happy doing it the way they’re doing it. They need to look at something new to bring people in.”
Joseph Henchman, an attorney and financial analyst with the Tax Foundation, was brought to Nebraska by the Platte Institute for Economic Research, a privately funded conservative think tank, to speak at the rally and testify at the hearing.
Henchman told those gathered at the rally that research groups and academic studies show that taxing consumption or sales, instead of income, leads to more economic growth and does less harm.
People and businesses choose to locate in a state for a lot of reasons: regulations, education, family connections, infrastructure, the weather, he said. Education reforms and infrastructure changes take time to change, he said, and no one can change the weather. But changing a tax system, for better or worse, can happen instantaneously.
When people and business leaders ask, “why move to Nebraska?” no income tax is a pretty good answer, Henchman said.
Brad Stevens, with Americans for Prosperity, said the governor’s tax reform bill was about getting new, good-paying jobs for the state. Nebraska needs to be a low-tax state, he said.
The bill isn’t perfect, Stevens said, and there are other exemptions the group would support.
“Why do we continue to exempt certain purchases of fine art? Why do we continue to exempt purchases for lottery tickets?” he asked. “If you can pay a buck for a chance to win $500 million, you can pay $1.07.
“This is an important conversation, and we need to have it,” Stevens said, offering sandwiches and packets of Americans for Prosperity information to the rally attendees.