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Still waiting on property tax relief

Property tax relief will have to wait for a possible special session, but Nebraska’s Unicameral moved on other key ag issues this spring.

Don McCabe, Nebraska Farmer Editor

May 30, 2024

3 Min Read
Nebraska capital building
NOT YET: In spite of support from Gov. Jim Pillen, property tax relief for farmers and other property owners was elusive this past spring. However, the Nebraska Legislature passed other measures tackling ag issues. Curt Arens

Property taxes continued to be the focal point of the 2024 Nebraska Legislature. However, Gov. Jim Pillen’s proposal to reduce the burden of those taxes on farmers and other property owners was thwarted in the final days of the session, likely leading to a special session call by the governor later this summer.

Pillen’s original goal of a 40% property tax reduction, in a bill late in the session, came with a sales tax hike and removal of some sales tax exemptions. That plan was scuttled by those opposed to the sales tax provisions.

Even a scaled-down version of LB 388 that trimmed the property tax reduction was withdrawn during the last day of the session when supporters determined they could not overcome the opposition. The measure also placed more restrictive property tax caps on school districts.

Waiting game

So, farmers and other Nebraska property owners will have to wait until action in the expected special session or the 2025 legislative session for any chance of property tax relief.

“For now, it’s unfinished business for more significant property tax relief,” says Bruce Rieker, state government affairs director for the Nebraska Farm Bureau.

In other action, the Legislature created an incentive payment program for farmers who reduce nitrogen use. The Nitrogen Reduction Incentive Act will provide payments to farmers who can document a 25-pounds-per-acre or a 15% reduction in nitrogen fertilizer use.

Related:Governor touts property tax relief, trade mission at HHD

“The program is funded by a one-time transfer of $1 million from the state’s water resources cash fund and $200,000 from the state’s general funds,” Rieker says.

Details, including the type of documentation needed, are yet to be worked out. The Nebraska Department of Natural Resources will develop and implement the program, working with the 23 natural resources districts.

Expanded broadband in rural, underserved areas in the state would benefit from LB 61. The bill’s focus is expanding broadband connectivity for precision agriculture use. It allows any agency or political subdivision to lease or license unused dark fiber.

“That phrase refers to some public utilities that buried more lines than they needed in anticipation of future use,” Rieker says.

“The state’s new broadband office, created a year ago with a federal grant of $435 million, has been tasked with getting better broadband connectivity statewide, including rural Nebraska where cost per customer is higher because of sparsely populated areas,” Rieker adds.

In other action

LB 1030 changed provisions of the County Bridge Match Program by creating a working group with two county officials appointed by the governor and three members selected by the director of transportation to develop the program. The bill transfers $4 million this year and another $4 million in 2025 to fund the match program.

LB 1313 allows nonprofit agricultural membership organizations — such as the Farm Bureau — to offer health benefit plans to members. “These plans, when developed, will be somewhat like health insurance before the Affordable Care Act,” Rieker says. The details of these plans have yet to be developed.

LB 937, a late-in-the session catch-all bill, created tax credits for “sale of qualifying sustainable aviation fuel.” Not yet commercially available, sustainable aviation fuel is part of an emerging market for the next generation of cleaner liquid renewable fuels produced from ethanol.

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McCabe is a retired longtime editor of Nebraska Farmer. He writes from Lincoln, Neb.

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About the Author(s)

Don McCabe

Nebraska Farmer Editor

Growing up on a farm near Newcastle, Neb., Don McCabe was always interested in agriculture. After a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy, he earned his journalism degree from the University of Nebraska. He joined the staff at Nebraska Farmer in 1977, first as a writer and eventually serving for many years as the publication's editor. McCabe is now retired in Lincoln, but still contributes regularly to Nebraska Farmer as a freelance writer. 

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