When the Nebraska Legislature reconvenes in January, state Sen. Ben Hansen expects two bills — a property tax relief proposal and a tax incentive program — will be the main focus during the session.
Hansen, who represents District 16, which includes Washington, Burt and Cuming counties, spoke to the Blair Rotary Club on Tuesday.
LB 720, known as the “ImagiNE Nebraska Act,” is being proposed to replace the existing “Nebraska Advantage Act,” which offers tax incentives to attract businesses to the state. Nebraska Advantage sunsets at the end of 2020.
“It's time to reshape and remodel that incentive program because I think the incentive program we had before is going to end up costing us a lot more money than we brought in to the state,” Hansen said. “It's nice having business, but when it costs the taxpayer more money than we're actually going to be bringing in, sometimes we have to ask ourselves if it's really worth it.”
Hansen said he wants to see the incentives be offered to small businesses that may only hire one to two employees. To receive incentives now, companies must hire at least five to 10 employees.
“I'd like to see it be a little more fair,” he said. “If you're going to incentivize one group, I think you should incentivize all or at least leave it open to all.”
Hansen said it could be a “big fight” to get LB 720 passed if some type of property tax relief bill isn't passed. LB 720 was voted down in the last session after the property tax bill did not go through.
LB 289, which is being brought forth by Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn and Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, is expected to address property tax relief and reshape how Nebraska funds its schools.
Blair schools would have benefitted from the bill proposed last session and Hansen expects that the district still could under the new proposal, which won't be revealed to members of the Legislature until later this month, according to a Lincoln Journal-Star article.
“Blair would be one of the biggest recipients of funds, I think, from this bill,” Hansen said. “It's trying to direct a little bit more state aid toward rural schools through a foundation formula and help control some county spending about how we levy taxes and how they control spending at the county level.”
Hansen said he'd like to see more done with the TEEOSA formula that is currently used to fund schools. That formula, he said, is “flawed.”
“I think it's outdated, it's unfair and I think it's biased,” he said.
Hansen said the formula, which was passed in 1990, didn't take into consideration land value changes.
Hansen is also working on some bills he plans to introduce, including his own property tax proposal.
The legislative session is scheduled to open Jan. 8.