As boat dealers go, Sen. Kent Rogert of Tekamah is not particularly successful.

He told reporters that he's sold fewer than 10 boats since 2003, although he's a little vague on the details.

At any rate, he's never made more than $1,000 a year as a boat dealer, or no doubt he would have reported it on the annual statement of financial interest that he is required to file as a state senator.

But Rogert has reaped one sizable benefit from "dabbling" - his word - in boat dealing, Joe Jordan reported on the Internet site Nebraska Watchdog.

By filing as a dealer, Rogert was able to avoid paying sales tax on the 1996 310-horsepower Baja 272 he purchased in 2003.

If Rogert paid $30,000 to $40,000 - a range other dealers say is likely - he would have had to fork over $1,650 to $2,200 in state sales tax.

By comparison, a dealer license costs only $50 every three years.

There are no license requirements. Betty Johnson, administrator for driver and vehicle records, said that anyone in the know can walk into a county treasurer's office and claim to be a dealer.

Brett Manire, manager of Premier Boating Center in Lincoln, said, "I'm surprised a lot more people don't do it. It's kind of an honor system."

Rogert told the Journal Star in 2007: "I love my boat. That's the thing I love the most.

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It's a 28-foot Baja, open bow, so it's loud. It holds a lot of people and creates a lot of fun."

In the United States of America, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, so Rogert should be given the benefit of the doubt on whether he should have paid sales tax when he purchased his boat.

But surely Rogert would agree that the law as now written has a loophole that would allow an unscrupulous person to avoid paying a few grand in taxes when buying an expensive watercraft.

Some public-spirited state senator ought to put the task of plugging this loophole on his to-do list for the next legislative session.

Maybe Rogert could take on the task. A self-described "river rat," he seems familiar with the ins and outs of boat dealing and ownership. It would be a chance to use his expertise for the public good, which is presumably why he ran for office in the first place.


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