- Associated Press - Friday, January 22, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A Nebraska lawmaker took aim Friday at a sales tax break for food sold at political events, saying it only benefits politicians while other groups are forced to pay the tax.

Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins argued that the current exemption amounts to tax break that elected officials gave to themselves.

Bloomfield has introduced a bill to reinstate the tax at events held by candidates, political parties, ballot measure groups and independent committees.

“Everybody else pays taxes,” Bloomfield told the Revenue Committee. “I don’t know why political people should be exempt.”

Bloomfield said he discovered the exemption last year while researching another bill to give the same sales tax exemption to veterans’ groups. The veterans’ proposal remains stuck in committee.

Nebraska allows sales tax exemptions on nearly 100 different goods and services, from farm chemicals to airplane fuel to bull semen, according to the Department of Revenue. The state exempts food prepared by schools and churches, among other groups.

Some lawmakers expressed skepticism. Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island questioned whether it could inject more money into political races by forcing candidates to increase their fundraising to cover the additional expense.

“The unintended consequence for me is we may be taking more money from more individuals,” said Gloor, the committee chairman.

Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft said she opposed anything that might discourage attendance at a political event, but acknowledged that the cost of food wouldn’t make a large difference.

Bloomfield said the tax likely wouldn’t have a disproportionate impact on lower-income residents as other taxes on food do.

“When we have a $500-a-plate fundraiser, we’re not taking that money from poor people,” he said.

Sen. Al Davis said event organizers might skirt the law by seeking a donation for the event itself and providing food for free.

No one testified in support of or against the bill, and lawmakers took no immediate action.

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The bill is LB689

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