It’s time for lawmakers to make tough decisions on No. 1 issue

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Nebraska lawmakers have an opportunity to address one of the state’s highest priorities this session and it’s time to stop kicking the can down the road and support meaningful property tax relief.
The state’s leading industry has taken several body blows in recent years, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty which ripples throughout our great state’s economy. Global tariffs have had a dramatic impact on export markets, commodity prices are low and land values are down though input costs remain high. Add to that the trauma of spring flooding which has devastated or washed away many farms and you’ve got an ag sector in dire need of help.
Nebraska lawmakers have been dancing around this issue for several years but have been unable to find language that garners the necessary votes. That’s troubling, as it reflects an urban/rural split or difference of philosophy which many say does not exist. We stand strong as one Nebraska on so many fronts, but this one issue has created a gap for which we have yet to find a bridge.
There can be no argument that the state’s property tax burden falls unproportionally hard on Nebraska farmers, some of whom have seen their tax bills go up 200 percent in recent years. That’s simply not sustainable, especially given the other circumstances outlined above.
Finding a solution won’t be easy, though lawmakers must engage this issue with a resolve to provide real, meaningful relief, not just put a Band-aid on an open wound. That will mean finding additional sources of revenue as there simply aren’t enough ways to cut spending in other areas that makes the math work.
Some of the components in the initial version of LB 289 make sense (see related story on Page A1) though a hearing this week will help determine what the final package may ultimately look like. Lawmakers must avoid the temptation of adding in so many variables that the end result is uncertain or diluted, which will be a true test of their legislative abilities.
Our governor and legislators need to know that Nebraskans are watching this issue closely, we care about the details, and ultimately that we expect them to make the tough decisions needed to strengthen the foundation of our ag economy.
Kurt Johnson

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