Tension Over Property Tax Relief Measures: Nebraska Legislative Debate Shapes Up to be Historic and Controversial

Business owners express concerns as proposed property tax relief bill may increase reliance on sales taxes

On Wednesday, a legislative package aimed at providing property tax relief to Nebraskans was brought to the Unicameral floor for its first round of debate. Governor Jim Pillen, who prioritized the tax package, referred to it as “historic” and “transformational.” Some state senators have compared Nebraska’s tax system to an unbalanced stool, putting too much weight on property owners. However, organizations like the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce have opposed shifting this burden to consumers through sales tax hikes.

Business owners like Sarah Linden, CEO of Grateful Green, are concerned about specific sales tax increases included in the proposal. For example, a 100% tax on CBD and hemp products may discourage customers and lead to lower sales tax revenue as businesses close. Linden believes these measures are punitive and will harm lower-to-middle-income consumers who rely on these products for medical purposes.

At Brewsky’s Food and Spirits, owner Brian Kitten emphasizes the importance of games of skill machines in generating revenue for his business, especially during the pandemic. However, with proposed taxes on these games set at 20%, Kitten fears losing a valuable source of income. He describes the potential impact as a “downward spiral” for his business.

As the debate continues on the floor, changes may be made to the bill’s language. Senators expect to spend several more days tinkering with it before it is finalized. The overall goal of the legislative package is to reduce property taxes for Nebraskans; however, different stakeholders in the state have varying opinions about how best to achieve that goal.

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