The Legislature's Revenue Committee continued its measured march toward construction of a tax reform package on Thursday with more than $250 million in potential sales tax revenue increases in play.

All of that additional revenue is tentatively targeted to property tax reduction.

An income tax component that may touch both individual and corporate taxes continues to remain on the drawing board.

All told, the committee surveyed an incomplete list of potential changes that could raise an additional $294 million a year.

"It's not anywhere near cooked," Revenue Chairwoman Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn said following the committee's afternoon executive session, its third sitdown effort to begin to build a plan.

"These are some ideas," she said. "It's not settled. Big picture, not details."

Linehan said the committee has just "scratched the surface" in determining whether, or what, income tax changes might be melted into the final product.

"I'm hopeful we can get unanimous committee approval" for a tax reform package that can be moved to the floor of the Legislature for debate, Linehan said, perhaps by her target date of mid-April.

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"It would be much better" to have unanimity from a committee that's composed of four rural senators and four urban senators, all from metropolitan Omaha, she said, "but there will be a bill." 

"We're going to have some long nights," she told the committee.

The biggest component in the tentative package is a one-half cent increase in the 5.5 percent state sales tax rate, and a couple of the committee members said they might look favorably on a three-fourths cent rate hike.

A half-cent sales tax increase would raise an estimated $171.5 million a year, providing the biggest component in a tentative $294 million package.

If all that money was directed at property tax relief — as Linehan has insisted that it should be — it would come in addition to the $224 million in annual relief provided through the state's property tax credit fund.

Gov. Pete Ricketts has included in his fiscal 2019-2021 budget recommendation an additional $51 million in annual property tax credits.  

Among the key items in the committee's tentative list of proposed tax changes are a cigarette sales tax hike and removal of soda pop and candy sales tax exemptions.

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

On Twitter @LJSDon.


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