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July 19, 2024
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The search for property tax relief

by Dick Pierce

Greetings from central Nebraska. As I contemplate writing this article, my thoughts go out to those who have battled grassfires in recent weeks. All the havoc and devastation that is left in the wake of these natural disasters is incomprehensible at best.

These tragedies are not easy to deal with, yet we in agriculture and the beef industry — by the grace of God — find the fortitude, stamina and wherewithal to persevere and continue to produce fine products for American consumers, as well as consumers around the world.

I am a proud beef producer with headquarters in northwest Buffalo County, Neb. I have been in the beef business practically my whole life. My wife Janna and I, along with our oldest son Justin, have a multigenerational family operation, P/4 Cattle Co., with an emphasis in cow-calf and yearling production.

Our four kids have all been a part of the business either directly or indirectly their whole lives.

Beef involvement

I have been a member of Nebraska Cattlemen for many years. I became active in the organization when I was asked to sit on the board of directors as part of the taxation committee.

Nebraska Cattlemen is a grassroots, member-driven organization. We are very active in politics, both state and local, as well as nationally. This is an important focus, although we are also deeply involved with the promotion of our industry, again locally and nationwide and worldwide.

As a member-driven organization, we are asked to serve on various task forces in our state. Gov. Jim Pillen recently asked for representatives to participate in his Land Valuation Task Force. Laura Field, our executive vice president, and I were designated to do so.

The task force is made up of nine state senators; representatives of the state, Omaha and Lincoln chambers of commerce; Nebraska Association of County Officials; League of Municipalities; Farm Bureau; the Realtors Association; and Nebraska Cattlemen.

The governor and four of his staff members who are involved with the state’s finances sit on the task force as well.

We were initially given the charge to investigate the state’s land valuations as they affect the property taxes paid by property owners. The focus quickly changed to what the general tax-asking is of each group of political subdivisions within our state — namely cities, counties, Natural Resources Districts and school districts. The discussion centered around how property tax relief and reform can come about.

Time for relief

We decided that relief to the tune of $1.4 billion is needed to effectively bring our taxes to a more manageable level. Various ideas have been put on the table. Moving forward, the consensus has been to remove some exemptions but to leave business input exemptions in place, possibly shift the tax burden to sales tax, and raise luxury taxes (cigarettes, liquor, etc.).

In other words, visit the three-legged-stool concept of balancing property taxes with sales and income taxes to fund government. Another subject that has been discussed at length is putting a cap on spending by these subdivisions.

After all, we as citizens must keep our spending in check as we run our households and businesses. Government needs to do the same and be more accountable to its citizens. A 3% or less cap was discussed at length.

Hopefully from our discussions, the governor and legislators can come up with legislation to accomplish the property tax relief and reform that we so desperately need. This needs to be accomplished sooner rather than later. But at the same time, we must being realistic. It’s not going to happen overnight.

Pierce is a graduate of LEAD 8.

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