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As Papillion Sen. Jim Smith tries to secure votes for his tax reform bill, he told his colleagues “my phone will be on” during the adjournment over Easter weekend.

We’re not sure if the Revenue Committee chair will read this editorial on his phone over the four-day break. But, if he does, we’ve got a suggestion for him and his fellow senators to consider before the tax bill hits full-floor debate Tuesday.

Rather than focusing on just that tax bill, we encourage senators to also consider Albion Sen. Tom Briese’s tax reform proposal on the floor. The best way for lawmakers to have the most dynamic, informed conversation on this topic of critical importance is to weigh both available options.

Both bills offer the property tax relief for which the state’s agricultural producers have been clamoring. But that’s about the end of the similarities, as they posit vastly different views of how to get there.

Smith’s LB947, which he’s carrying on behalf of Gov. Pete Ricketts, involves both immediate relief and phases in property tax credits over a decade. It also gradually decreases the state’s corporate income tax rate while funding workforce development initiatives. However, it doesn’t identify a long-term funding source and would increase credits regardless of the state’s financial situation.

Meanwhile, Briese’s bill aims to fund property tax relief and increased K-12 education funding through increases in statewide sales and cigarette tax rates while also instituting a property tax asking cap. Though it remains stuck in committee, LB1084 is expected to surface on the floor as an amendment proposed to pending legislation.

(No doubt someone reading this will ask about LB829, Bayard Sen. Steve Erdman’s property tax proposal, which died in committee. Since then, organizers began a petition drive – meaning Nebraska voters, not senators, may have the final say. Accordingly, we’ll pass on it for now.)

Neither piece of legislation is perfect, but both provide roadmaps to a shared goal. Nebraskans elected their senators to represent their interests and hash out their differences for the common good of the state – and the ongoing tax debate provides a prime opportunity to do just that.

Is the immediate need great enough to push finding future funding sources down the road, or should the state also provide revenue to cover the cost of tax relief? How should Nebraska best balance the three-legged stool of property, income and sales taxes? What’s the proper way to adequately fund public education in the state?

Hard questions abound in this discussion on tax policy, and those will ultimately have to be made by Nebraska’s elected officials. With this legislative session ticking away, the best approach must include listening to all options on the table.


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