Gov. Pete Ricketts has failed to solve Nebraska's "property tax crisis," Democratic challenger Bob Krist said Thursday as he pledged to champion tax reform that would reduce the current local property tax load by increasing state aid to schools.
"We believe we need to restore the balance in how we pay for education," Krist said during an address in Kearney to county officials from across the state.
"As the state has cut back on (its) share of funding for public education in an attempt to balance (its) budget, the property tax has been used to make up the difference," Krist said.
"Not long ago, the state contributed 20 percent of income tax revenues to help fund education. Now that figure is less than 3 percent."
Meawhile, he said, property taxes have "continued to skyrocket out of control."
Krist centered his remarks on the argument that Ricketts has had more than three years, and four legislative sessions, to resolve Nebraska's growing property tax challenge.
"The average homeowner in Nebraska is getting less than $25 in additional property tax relief this year," the Omaha senator said.
"Governor Ricketts pledged to fix the property tax issue, but has failed to do so. Instead, he has focused his energies on trying to cut taxes on upper-income earners, corporations and special interests."
A legislative proposal championed by the governor this year would have provided both property and corporate income tax reduction and was revised several times by Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion, chairman of the Revenue Committee, to steadily move more of the emphasis to property tax relief implemented over the next decade.
Krist said most of the governor's tax reduction proposals during his four legislative sessions have focused on "dramatic cuts to corporate income taxes, slashed taxes for his wealthy friends, increased taxes on low-wage earners and next to nothing for the average property taxpayer."
If he is elected, Krist said, he would focus on tax reform that is "fair to hard-working Nebraskans.
"Not behind closed doors," he said, "but in the open where the citizens of Nebraska can be heard and ideas are measured against one standard: Is this fair to the people of Nebraska?"