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Senators consider property tax credit fund hikes option
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Senators consider property tax credit fund hikes option

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The Legislature's Revenue Committee on Tuesday broadened its conversation, tentatively focusing on a proposed $100 million annual increase in the state property tax credit fund during each of the next three years as an option to substantial tax reform.

No votes were taken during a committee meeting convened by telephone conference call; no decisions were made.  

But discussion centered on a proposal to increase the $275 million property tax credit fund to $575 million over a three-year period through $100 million annual hikes appropriated in the state budget.

That course of action was viewed by some committee members as more acceptable than earlier plans to fund larger and more immediate property tax reductions through comprehensive tax and school funding reform.

The committee has been considering a proposal that would end dozens of state sales tax exemptions to provide funding support.

In negotiating a plan for consideration by the 2020 Legislature, Revenue Committee Chairwoman Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, with the assistance of Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, chairman of the Education Committee, has been conferring with Gov. Pete Ricketts in an effort to seek some agreement on a consensus proposal.

Influencing the committee's deliberations has been the necessity to create a plan that ultimately could gain the support of at least 33 senators, the number required to clear a filibuster by legislative opponents, and the 30 votes that would be needed to override a potential gubernatorial veto.

Hanging over the process is an initiative petition drive that's underway to provide state income tax refunds and credits equal to 35% of local property taxes paid. 

If that proposed constitutional amendment reaches the 2020 general election ballot, it has the potential to blow a $1.5 billion hole in the state budget.

Committee discussion during the conference call centered on the challenge of being able to clear the 33-vote and 30-vote hurdles in the Legislature with a more comprehensive plan that would also address school funding issues.

The 45-minute deliberation also pointed toward possible legislation that would focus on new local government spending limits.

And changes in school funding also are still in play.

The committee will meet again Friday following a joint public hearing with the Legislature's Appropriations Committee. Linehan wants to present the committee's tax reform proposal to all members of the Legislature at a meeting Nov. 22.

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

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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