LINCOLN — A comprehensive study aimed at changing Nebraska's tax system began taking shape Wednesday.
And one of the major architects of the study said that the so-called Tax Modernization Committee could start meeting within a month if it wins swift approval by the Legislature.
“We want to show Nebraskans that we heard them, and we're willing to act,” said State Sen. Galen Hadley of Kearney, chairman of the Legislature's Revenue Committee. “The purpose behind this is not to dodge the issue.”
The comments came after the Revenue Committee voted unanimously to kill two bills proposed by Gov. Dave Heineman. The bills sought to shift the state tax load off income taxes and onto more sales taxes by eliminating exemptions now utilized by businesses, farmers, hospitals and other nonprofit groups.
The bills faced a verbal firing squad of opposition from those groups at public hearings two weeks ago. That prompted the governor on Saturday to ask that they be removed from consideration.
Now, Hadley and other senators are pursuing a task force-like study of the state tax system and whether the way Nebraska taxes its residents and businesses has kept up with a changing world and economy.
After discussion among Revenue Committee members Wednesday, the proposed form of the study took some shape.
All eight members of the Revenue Committee would serve on the special tax study committee, as well as the chairs of the Legislature's Education, Appropriations, Health and Human Services and Planning Committees. The chair of the Agriculture Committee was suggested as an addition Wednesday to ensure that the issue of high property taxes on farm and ranch land is represented.
Hadley said he envisions that the committee will begin by looking at recent legislative studies of state taxes and deciding which ideas should be pursued.
Ideas about the structure of the study are to be amended into Legislative Bill 613, which was introduced by Columbus Sen. Paul Schumacher.
That bill is being considered by the Legislature's Executive Board. Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy said Wednesday that LB 613 would be his priority bill, which would help guarantee debate on the issue.
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