- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 2, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts scored two key endorsements Tuesday for his plan to slow the statewide growth of property taxes and local government spending.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation and the Nebraska Cattlemen Association announced they would both support his plan to address a top complaint of the state’s agricultural producers.

Ricketts has proposed two bills that would tighten spending and levy limits on local governments and restrict the assessed growth in farm- and ranchland property values. They also would cap the growth rate of school district spending and the amounts that districts can stash in their cash reserves.

One of the governor’s two proposals will go before the Legislature’s Revenue Committee on Thursday, when lawmakers will hear input from the public. Ricketts has identified the package as one of his top priorities this year and is expected to testify at the hearing.

“Those bills provide much-needed tax relief for hardworking Nebraska families,” Ricketts said during a conference call with reporters.

Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson said the proposals represent “a step in the right direction” to ease the financial burden on farmers.

Pete McClymont, executive vice president for the Nebraska Cattlemen, said his members consider property taxes their top concern but they also want to preserve education funding for local schools. McClymont said the bills introduced this year strike a good balance.

“If there’s a silver bullet here, nobody’s found it. But these are two great tools,” he said.

Ricketts is working on the package with Sens. Mike Gloor of Grand Island and Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids, who co-chaired a joint committee last year that looked at ways to reduce property taxes while ensuring adequate funding for K-12 schools.

“I think all of us know full well that Nebraskans are demanding property tax relief,” Sullivan said. “The support of these two groups is key for building support for this property tax package.”

Gloor said he believes the groups’ endorsement of the package “dramatically improves its chances of success” in the Legislature.

Property taxes are levied by school districts, counties and other local governments, but state officials have faced pressure to intervene because of soaring agricultural property values that forced landowners to pay more. Ricketts has said the state can exert some control because it sets the rules that govern how those taxes are collected.


The bills are LB958 and LB959

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