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Cutting and reforming taxes is key to growing Nebraska. Over the years, together, the Legislature and I have done the hard work needed to hold the line on taxes. Additionally, we have worked together to deliver over $840 million in property tax relief over four years.

While this is significant, I’m continuing to make tax relief a top priority. Throughout the state, senators and I hear stories of how high taxes are hurting Nebraskans. There’s one story that has really stuck with me: This fall, a farmer approached me at an event to let me know that his high property taxes had driven him to sell his farm, leave Nebraska, and move to Missouri.

Stories like this are reflected in how Nebraska ranks on taxes nationally. The Tax Foundation ranks Nebraska’s property taxes as 11th-highest in the nation, which is the worst among surrounding states. The only surrounding state with an income tax higher than ours is Iowa. Right now, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and their Legislature are lowering their taxes. Additionally, Missouri just lowered their tax rates this month.

If we are going to remain competitive, Nebraska must take action to deliver tax relief for our farmers, ranchers, homeowners and small businesses. To accomplish this, Revenue Chairman Jim Smith and I are proposing the Nebraska Property Tax Cuts and Opportunity Act. This bill reforms our tax code to focus existing property tax relief on Nebraskans, fits within our existing budget, and sets up the state for future relief as our state’s economy grows. Our proposal has three major components.

First, property tax relief is the No. 1 priority. Our proposal reforms how the state delivers property tax relief, and sets the state up to provide additional major relief in future years. The Nebraska Property Tax Cuts and Opportunity Act restructures existing property tax credits as a new refundable credit on state taxes, which ensures that Nebraskans — not out-of-state landowners — receive the credits. The credit will refund 10 percent of the property taxes paid by Nebraskans on residential or agricultural land. For residential property, the proposal focuses the relief on the average Nebraska homeowner.

Our proposal also provides for major additional relief in future years as the state grows. Every year that revenue exceeds budgeted receipts by 1 percent, we’ll increase the tax credit until it reaches 30 percent of the property taxes paid by Nebraskans. Over the next 10 years, we expect our proposal would provide over $4 billion in property tax relief for farmers and ranchers as well as homeowners. This is major relief that is achieved without raising taxes.

Second, our proposal brings down income tax rates to help put more money back into the pockets of families and small businesses. Right now, 90 percent of individual income taxes paid by Nebraskans are at that top individual rate, and 90 percent of Nebraska businesses pay at the top individual rate. Lowering these rates will lower the burden on small businesses that drive our economy, and help attract new opportunities.

Finally, our proposal provides for an additional $10 million over two years for workforce development. Job training dollars can help us connect more Nebraskans to great opportunities and others looking for a different career.

The Nebraska Property Tax Cuts and Opportunity Act is a framework that can help bring people together to get tax reform done this legislative session. Sen. Smith and I will continue to work with senators and other groups seeking tax relief. Pro-growth senators, groups and everyone involved will all need to be open to compromise as we work together. It will need to be a bipartisan effort for the good of our entire state.

If you want to see tax relief this legislative session, I encourage you to reach out to your senator, and encourage them to support the Property Tax Cuts and Opportunity Act.

Gov. Pete Ricketts can be contacted at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or 402-471-2244.

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