LINCOLN — State lawmakers will hit the road on Monday to solicit ways Nebraska can make state and local taxes fairer and more competitive in today's economy.
The first of five scheduled public hearings by the Legislature's Tax Modernization Committee will be held Monday at 4 p.m. MDT at Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff, in the state's Panhandle.
The hearing is scheduled to be divided into three, hourlong discussions on property, sales and income taxes, but the meeting could be extended. Testifiers will be limited to 5 minutes.
“We want to hear from constituents. We want to hear what's on their minds,” said State Sen. Galen Hadley of Kearney, who's heading up the tax study and is chairman of the Legislature's Revenue Committee.
The commission was created out of the ashes of Gov. Dave Heineman's proposals to either eliminate or drastically reduce state income taxes — proposals that brought a stampede of opposition.
The governor wanted to balance the loss of income tax revenue by eliminating sales tax exemptions that now benefit businesses, farms, hospitals and nonprofit groups.
Those groups complained that eliminating exemptions would be a job killer and make Nebraska products and commodities uncompetitive.
The governor has backed off his original idea, but remains committed to revamping and reducing state taxes so that Nebraska is more competitive with neighboring states. One tax think tank, The Tax Foundation, ranks the state's business tax climate at No. 31, which Heineman has said is “mediocre” and must be improved.
However, Hadley, the state senator, said other tax rankings put Nebraska near the top. Recently, CNBC, a cable news network, ranked the state No. 4 for its business climate and Pollina Corporate Real Estate Inc. rated Nebraska No. 2 among the most “business-friendly” states.
Hadley said the state is doing pretty well with regard to taxes.
“(The tax system) might take some tinkering, some changes, but overall it's not working badly,” Hadley said.
The other tax hearings are scheduled:
» Tuesday, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., at Mid-Plains Community College, North Platte.
» Thursday, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., at Northeast Nebraska Community College's Lifelong Learning Center in Norfolk.
» Oct. 17, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., at Metro Community College, South Omaha Campus, Omaha.
» Oct. 18, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the State Capitol, Room 1113, Lincoln.
The 14-senator commission will submit its recommendations to the Legislature in December. The group recently outlined some possible tax changes for discussion. They can be found at the commission's website, under the tab for public hearing options: http://news.legislature.ne.gov/tmc/.
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