Gov. Pete Ricketts fired the opening shots Wednesday in an approaching battle with the Legislature's Revenue Committee over what appears likely to be a proposal to provide substantial property tax relief largely funded with increases in state sales tax revenue.

"It's a tax shift with winners and losers," Ricketts said during a luncheon speech to the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce.

The outline of a proposal being considered by the committee "doesn't do anything to control spending," the governor said.

"Such schemes deliver more government spending, not tax relief," he said.

"You need to get involved," Ricketts urged Chamber members. "Talk to your state senator."

The committee has not yet voted on any elements of the tentative tax reform package that is under discussion, but it may include a one-half cent increase in the 5.5% state sales tax rate along with a cigarette sales tax hike and removal of sales tax exemptions on candy, pop and bottled water. 

Other tax revisions are also under consideration.

Discussions within the committee have pointed toward the possibility of an additional $250 million or more in annual property tax relief. The state already funds $224 million in annual relief provided through the property tax credit fund. 

Ricketts told the Chamber audience that his 2019-21 budget proposal includes an additional $51 million in annual property tax credits.

The governor has also proposed a vote of the people on a constitutional amendment to place a cap on future local property tax increases. 

"The only way to have tax relief is to control spending," Ricketts said.

Some senators "want to raise your taxes," he said. 

Revenue Committee Chairwoman Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn has pointed toward the goal of moving a tax reform plan to the floor of the Legislature by mid-April.   

It would need to attract 30 votes in the 49-member Legislature to survive a gubernatorial veto and, before that, 33 votes to clear a potential filibuster waged by opponents.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.


Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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