By Governor Pete Ricketts
April 10, 2017
The Governor’s official photo is available here.
One of my top priorities as Governor is to reduce the tax burden on all Nebraskans to grow our state. The Tax Foundation ranks Nebraska 14th highest for income tax collections per capita and USA Today rates us 5th highest for property taxes. We can, and must, do better.
As I travel Nebraska, people share with me their personal stories about how taxes are hurting their families and businesses. Roxie and her husband run a small restaurant and family farm near Fremont. Last year they took out a second mortgage on their house to pay their property and income tax bill. For Roxie, tax reform is the difference between keeping the business and farm, or shuttering their operation. This is not an isolated situation. I hear these stories from Nebraskans in every corner of our state. Each story deepens my resolve to deliver better tax policy to Nebraskans.
I have been working closely with Revenue Committee Chair Jim Smith and Agriculture Committee Chair Lydia Brasch to put together a tax reform package that will provide meaningful tax relief to families and small business owners now.
Nebraskans in every county want to see a change in how property taxes are assessed, and families want to keep more of the money they earn. This is why this tax reform package reforms both ag land valuations and reduces income taxes.
Property tax reform must be delivered for our farm and ranch families. Income taxes must be reduced to help our hardworking families, grow small business opportunities, and create new and good-paying jobs. To get either one of these goals accomplished, we are going to have to work together and do both.
Last week, the Revenue Committee advanced a comprehensive tax reform package in LB461 that includes both the property and income tax reforms I announced at the beginning of this session. The package will go to the full Legislature very soon. Here are the top five things you should know about the tax plan:
- Property Tax Reform First: The plan changes the way ag land is valued for taxation purposes beginning in 2018, moving from a comparable market sales approach to valuing land based on its income potential. Functionally, this plan would have reduced ag land property valuations by $12 billion if it had been in place in 2017. This would have been an average reduction of 12 percent statewide. With flat levies, this would have reduced property tax on ag land by about $147 million in 2017. This plan also protects our K-12 schools with a projected investment of over $30 million each year in the state aid formula.
- Incremental Income Tax Relief: Starting in 2020, reduces the top income tax rate incrementally from 6.84 percent to 5.99 percent, but only if state revenues are expected to grow by 3.5 percent or more.
- Tax Credits for Low-Income Families: Starting in 2019, the plan provides tax credits for low-income families, increases the personal exemption credit, and expands the existing Earned Income Tax Credit. The plan contains approximately $7 million of new tax credits a year for low-income Nebraska families.
- Corporate Tax Relief to Create Jobs: The plan incrementally reduces the top corporate income tax rate from 7.81 percent to 5.99 percent to help make Nebraska more attractive to new companies or companies looking to expand. After an initial reduction to 7.59 percent, the plan makes continued incremental reductions only if state revenues are projected to grow by 4 percent or more starting in 2020.
- Tax Relief for All Nebraskans: Nebraskans of all income levels will see tax relief on their income under this plan. Middle and low-income Nebraskans will see the biggest percentage reduction in income taxes.
This is responsible tax reform that delivers relief to the Nebraskans who need it most, and is sustainable even as we work to restrain our growth in spending. Tax reform will grow Nebraska unleashing long-term growth on Main Street and in agriculture by allowing working Nebraskans to keep more of the money they earn.
You might wonder how we can pass tax reform at the same time we are working to balance the budget. None of the proposed reforms would adversely impact the budget, or require cuts to the upcoming two-year budget. This tax reform plan is designed to protect state budget needs and investments in education and public safety.
I urge you to contact your senator immediately and encourage them to control the growth in government and support tax reform this year. Special interests in the State Capitol do not want to see any relief pass this year, because they want to see more government spending. Visit www.NebraskaLegislature.gov for information on how to contact your senator. If you have additional thoughts on tax reform that you’d like to share with me, please contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-471-2244.