AGRICULTURE

Two Nebraska governor hopefuls unveil tax cut plans

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Farm Forum

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – Two Republican gubernatorial candidates, both state senators, unveiled tax cut proposals on Jan. 6 that they plan to introduce when the Nebraska Legislature convenes.

Sens. Beau McCoy and Charlie Janssen announced their plans ahead of the new session, which began on Jan. 8. The senators both serve on the Legislature’s tax-focused Revenue Committee.

Both plans would reduce the taxable value of farm and ranch land to 65 percent of its market value, from the current 75 percent. They also would increase funding for the state’s property-tax credit program.

McCoy, of Omaha, said his plan would add $85 million to the property-tax credit program, raising the total amount to $200 million. The reductions in agriculture land valuations would go into effect gradually over three years, starting in 2015, at a projected total cost of $77 million.

McCoy said he would pay for both measures by taking money from Nebraska’s cash reserve, which is expected to reach a record $725 million by the end of fiscal year 2015, and from any possible increases in future state revenue. The Economic Forecasting Advisory Board will meet in February to predict how much money the state will collect.

“When you have as much as we do in a cash reserve, I believe it’s my duty and responsibility as a lawmaker to return those additional funds back to the taxpayers who earned them in the first place,” McCoy said.

Janssen, of Fremont, said his bill would cut income tax rates and exempt Social Security and military retirement income from taxation. McCoy said he would work to achieve those goals as governor. McCoy also said he would push for a sales-tax exemption for agricultural parts and repairs.

Jansen said he also planned to introduce legislation that would require all state government agencies to identify “low-utilization, low-priority and inefficient programs” and make a recommendation to change or eliminate them.

“I’ve put more than 30,000 miles on my truck traveling our state, and the clear message from homeowners, business leaders, farmers and ranchers is that we need tax relief now,” Janssen said in a statement. “I know we can get there by making government accountable and regularly auditing for waste and inefficiency.”

Four other Republican candidates are running for governor: Omaha businessman Pete Ricketts, State Auditor Mike Foley, state Sen. Tom Carlson and Omaha tax attorney Bryan Slone. Former University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook is unopposed in the Democratic race.

A December report by the Legislature’s Tax Modernization Committee said no major changes were needed in Nebraska’s tax system. A majority of lawmakers on the panel concluded that Nebraska’s tax system is similar to other states, and dismissed the notion of drastic cuts.

Four of the 14 members refused to sign the report, including McCoy and Janssen.