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The Public Pulse, Nov. 2

The Public Pulse, Nov. 2

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Shuffling tax burden around doesn’t help

With all of the discussion of Nebraska’s property taxation, it can be hard to determine what is right.

Some farm organizations point to agricultural land owners being 3 percent of the population but paying 24 percent of the property taxes. Typically omitted is that 82 percent of Nebraska is farmland but that it contributes only 24 percent of property taxation.

While some might conclude that farmland owners are grossly underpaying, the real issue is that everyone — rural, urban and business — pays far too much. For many, a relocation to Missouri, for example, could result in a property tax reduction of 50 percent or greater.

Probably no state has demonstrated more than Nebraska that shuffling burdens among sales, income and property taxes fails to relieve anything. It’s about as effective as flying over the state tossing billions of dollars out the window and hoping that somehow something good will happen.

The best way to ensure that property taxation is actually lowered is a law that would specify annual taxes could not exceed 1 percent of assessed valuation.

Don Walters, Omaha

A tax hike most can agree on: tobacco

An overwhelming majority of Nebraskans agree that the state should raise taxes on tobacco products: Sixty-eight percent would support a $1 increase on cigarettes if a portion of the new revenue would go to property tax relief and programs to help smokers quit, according to a recent survey by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.

As a volunteer for that group and a lifelong Nebraskan, I trust our elected officials will listen in the 2014 legislative session.

Tobacco use costs all Nebraska taxpayers. Our state spends some $537 million in annual tobacco-related health care costs.

With an increase in the tax on tobacco products, we could decrease the money we spend in state government, help Nebraskans avoid health issues caused by tobacco use and generate revenue to address other needs, such as property tax relief.

Jack Anderson, Omaha

We can agree on need for pension reform

As you can imagine, Americans for Prosperity-Nebraska (AFP), Omaha’s city government and the public-sector unions don’t always see eye to eye. Yet one issue we can all agree on is that the civilian pension fund needs reform (Oct. 28 World-Herald).

The proposed cash-benefit plan could work wonders in protecting taxpayers’ dollars and civil servants’ retirement. Granted, it would still have liability risks.

A defined-contribution plan would be a more ideal reform, as employees would be responsible for making their own paycheck dedications and choosing their own investments, much like most of us do in the private sector with 401(k)s. With cash benefits, the city makes all those decisions and is required to pay employees an annuity upon retirement regardless of the rate of return on the investments.

Nevertheless, cash-benefit reform is still a major step toward fiscal sustainability, by limiting a civil servant’s benefits to a balance in his or her retirement account rather than unrealistically promising a percentage of income for life. For this reason, AFP proudly joins the city and unions in supporting reforms.

Matt Litt, Lincoln

Director, Americans for Prosperity-Nebraska

School-attendance law is like bullying

Congratulations to Douglas County Board chairwoman Mary Ann Borgeson for calling for a repeal of the indiscriminate criminalization of excessive school absences (Oct. 30 World-Herald). Thanks to the Douglas County Board and the Nebraska Association of County Officials for incorporating support for such a repeal in their 2014 legislative agendas.

Is there not broad community agreement that bullying is bad and cultural proficiency is good? We must put a stop to prosecution of families for exercising their right and responsibility to decide whether it is in their children’s best interests to be in school on any given day.

Anyone who looks at the suffering that Nebraska’s school-attendance law has caused and is unmoved may need remedial instruction on what constitutes bullying.

Rachel Pinkerton, Valley, Neb.

Voter ID law seems like common sense

It’s time for a closer look at the arguments for and against requiring an ID to vote.

The argument in favor is obvious. Voter fraud has been a problem in some locations.

The opposing arguments have been more nebulous and seem to boil down to “voter suppression.” My instinctive reaction is, “What’s the big deal? Show your driver’s license just as you would to buy a six-pack of beer.”

But, the argument goes, some people are so marginalized that they don’t have, and can’t get, a driver’s license or any other ID. But why not, really? The government requires that they have a Social Security card. The government also requires that they fill out tax returns. And now they must register for health insurance. Is all of that so much easier than getting a simple ID?

I don’t think so. Moreover, I think that many who oppose the requirement for voter ID know better.

Robert N. May, Omaha

Halloween in decline? Now that’s scary

I live on a well-lit, nice neighborhood street.

My home and one other — only two — had their porch lights on for the trick-or-treaters Halloween evening. I had candy galore. I still have that candy, as only one kid rang my doorbell.

How sad. What’s next, no more Santa?

Shirley Lewis, Omaha

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