Two bills relating to the learning community (ok “learning communities” but we all know there’s only one) are being discussed in a Revenue Committee hearing this Thursday.
One is Sen. Scott Price’s LB418, which I have blogged about before here. I encourage everyone who cares about tax fairness in Douglas and Sarpy counties to attend the hearing and support this bill or at least contct your senator and register your support.
LB521, introduced by Sen. Dave Pankonin of District 2 (Louisville) authorizes the Learning Community to levy another quarter cent of property tax per 100,000 valuation, on top of the levies they are already authorised, for “general fund” purposes. It also changes the current reduction in state aid for school districts in the learning community from 50% to 10%. It appears to me that the net effect of this is that the learning community school districts will get more money from the state at large (although still not as much as before the learning community was thrust upon us) while Douglas and Sarpy property owners will have their property taxes hiked for the learning community’s “general fund” purposes. There’s no statement of intent posted for this bill so I’m not quite sure what Sen. Pankonin is trying to achieve here.
Hearing details are: Thursday, March 26th at 1:30pm in room 1524.
Government-business partnerships are the bane of liberty, but some people in the Unicameral don’t seem to understand this. Several bills before the Revenue Committee today are aimed at enabling counties to set up special districts with tax authority to fund the building of “Entertainment and Sports Attractions”. They also want to let these districts get some of the revenue from cigarette taxes.
These bills are tailor-made for Sarpy County’s latest boondoggle. Wake up Sarpy County! Those who wish to ride you are trying to saddle you with a stadium, and they’re trying to get help from the Unicameral to do it.
The bills are LB615, 616, 617, and 618, introduced by Abbie Cornett of Bellevue. The hearing is today! If you have a senator on this committee, let them know what you think of this government-corporate cronyism.
Update 3/23/09: This a good summary of the hearing for these bills. There is some establishment opposition so they are not a done deal.
Introduced by Scott Price from District 3 (Bellevue) , this is a bill to establish property valuation fairness in the newly created Learning Community that covers Douglas and Sarpy counties. This new political subdivision has the power to levy taxes on property owners in the two counties on behalf of the school districts.
Currently, Douglas and Sarpy counties vary widely in their property tax assessments methods. While Sarpy County adjusts property values county-wide every year, Douglas only adjusts property values for a section of the county each year, meaning that the average property owner sees a change in their valuation once every four or five years. This produces a wide disparity between the two counties that results in Sarpy County residents paying taxes on higher property valuations in any given year than most Doulgas county residents in homes of the same market value.
Since the Learning Community will be levying taxes on the properties in the two counties, it’s only fair that everyone’s property is assessed in the same way and this bill is an attempt to achieve that.
I don’t see this bill on the hearing schedule yet, but I am informed that it is slated to be heard by the Revenue Committee on March 26th.
All readers should be aware of LB 377 introduced by Senator Pankonin (2). This bill will allow any government entity including airport authorities, schools, cities, villages, counties, etc to get in a contractual relationship with the federal government. The federal government could possibly guarantee bonds issued by the government entity. The second questionable activity is the language that would allow bonds to be paid back by any tax (with no limits). This would also allow a way to go around other tax laws on the books.
This to me is a very dangerous bill. First because we would allow each entity to contract with the government. What if the entity defaults on the bond. Would the fed take over the running of the locality? This probably would not happen. The language in the bill states that the bond will be paid back and that the local government entity can come up with what ever taxing mechanism they want to do it all while going around other tax laws such as the sales tax, and property tax.
This bill would allow a school who is already belt tightening to take on a massive capital project knowing that they will not have the funds in the future to pay for it through traditional taxing. The school under this bill could impose a sales tax or increase property taxes ABOVE the legal lid to pay the bond. This one bill could and will allow taxes to run up quickly.
The statement of intent of this bill says that this would allow government entities the ability to obtain lower rates and overall a better deal on the bonds, however they have to be in contract with the federal government. While the statement of intent says the bill is for housing and it’s intent would be for a guarantee of loans on housing, the bill is written in such a vague way that it will be misused.
Other language in the bill states that this bill is an emergency bill which I believe means it would take effect the day after the Governor passes it. This bill is scheduled for hearing on Feb 2, 2009 and is assigned to the banking committee.
Today’s Lincoln Journal Star discusses a few things related to the beginning of the session. Since the session begins in a little over an hour, and looks to be largely a pro-forma meeting to formally assign committees and elect officers, I thought I might just toss the Journal Star’s items out there for consideration. Obviously, during a “long session” (which whill go until early June), much more will be considered.
- Death Penalty Issues: The State Supreme Court declared the electric chair unconstitutional, leaving Nebraska with no means for implementing the Death Penalty. Will the legislature pass a Lethal Injection bill? The Journal Star seems to think so.
- Immigration Issues: Should the state implement a means of dealing with illegal immigration? Should it mandate that employers be responsible for verifying the legal status of employees (beyond, one assumes, the current requirements that employers already fulfill)? How does Nebraska deal with the impact of immigration on its communities?
- Children in Crisis Issues: Further brought to light after last year’s “Safe Haven” law–intended to be a way for allowing newborns to be dropped off at hospitals–turned sour and resulted in a number of older children being dropped off as a means for getting them psychological and other support.
- Budget Issues: The state currently has about a $590 million cash reserve. How fast is that going to get spent down? How will legislators deal with ever increasing demands for state funding, without spending that reserve? And is more spending of the reserve a good idea in economic hard times?
- Tax Issues: Almost no one likes taxes. Nebraska is–with the combination of property, income, sales, gas and other taxes–consistently one of the top 20 taxed states in the country, and has occasionally slipped into the top 10. We’re not likely to get tax cuts this year, with the uncertainty of the economy. The question is, can we avoid tax increases and still pay the bills.
- Crime Bills: Attorney General Bruning is promoting a package of crime-fighting bills which would especially target on-line predators. One bill would make is illegal for registered sex offenders to use social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. No indications on how, exactly, the state would enforce that.
We’ll be watching, and if you hear of things going on in the Legislature that you’d like us to dig into a bit more, be sure to leave us a comment.