After sitting down for lunch with Gov. Pete Ricketts, members of the Legislature's Revenue Committee on Friday renewed their efforts to craft a substantial property tax relief proposal that can command sufficient support to gain legislative enactment.
The committee, led by Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, spent three hours beginning to fashion a new plan that conceivably might be able to broaden the sales tax base sufficiently to allow a reduction in the state sales tax rate and still produce substantial new revenue to fund property tax reductions.
The idea would be to generate "enough revenue from growth over time" to accomplish that goal, Linehan said, thus addressing some of the opposition to the committee's earlier proposal.
"My instinct is that you (won't be able to) do that," she said, but she wants to give it a try.
"What we need to do is look at it," she said. "We have a property tax problem and we have to go about fixing it together."
Linehan said the committee will continue to look for answers as it seeks sufficient support within the Legislature — at least 33 of the 49 senators must agree on a plan in order to clear a filibuster by opponents — and hopefully gain support from the governor.
"He knows property taxes are a big problem," she said, "and he wants to address that problem."
Linehan said the committee failed to keep Ricketts informed during its efforts earlier this year to craft a tax plan and she's determined to stay in communication with the governor this time.
Friday's get-together over sandwiches was positive and "very productive," she said.
The committee is surveying all members of the Legislature to determine each senator's priorities and concerns as it crafts a package that includes both tax reform and creation of a new business tax incentives program to succeed the current Nebraska Advantage Act that expires at the end of 2020.
The two issues have become tied together, Linehan said, "and we won't get to 33 votes without some agreement."
Two days after a last-gasp, alternative property tax plan was trapped by a filibuster last May, rural senators took the new business tax incentives bill hostage with a filibuster of their own.
Linehan said the pressure of an election year in 2020 could be a factor in prompting some agreement this time.
"I'm up (for reelection) and I don't want to go door-to-door and say we didn't do anything on property taxes," she said.
Early feedback from colleagues has included suggestions to also focus on workforce development and not make property tax relief just about agriculture.