Over the past 10 years, property taxes grew statewide by an average of 57%, while household income grew at 21%. There are counties in Nebraska where the average tax increase over the past ten years is as high as 147%, and individual homeowners and landowners have experienced even greater increases.
As the state has cut back on their share of funding for public education in an attempt to balance their budget, the property tax has been used to make up the difference. Not long ago the state contributed 20% of income tax revenues to help fund education. Now that figure is less than 3%.
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. His latest proposal — rejected by the Unicameral — would have provided T.D. Ameritrade, the company founded by the Ricketts family, a $13 million tax cut while the typical homeowner would receive a tax credit of $25.
As Republican State Senator Steve Erdman noted of this recent proposal, “But he (Ricketts) has never been for property tax relief, he never will be, just face it, straight up.” (LJS 4.24.28)
This is not the first attempt by Governor Ricketts to shift the burden of taxation onto the middle class. In previous years, plans offered by Governor Ricketts would have done more of the same. 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.
And when he ran for U.S. Senate, Ricketts was a strong advocate for the flat tax, also known as the 30% sales tax, which would have saved him hundreds of thousands of dollars each year while raising taxes on the middle class.
Senators Krist and Walz take a different approach. They believe we need to restore the balance in how we pay for education by increasing state aid in exchange for reducing property taxes used to fund education.
Krist and Walz want to reform the tax system so it is fair to hard-working Nebraskans. Not behind closed doors, 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?