Nebraska Property Tax Credit Act affects ranchers

Feb 20, 2009
by WLJ

A bill sponsored by Sen. Tom White of District 8 in Omaha, NE, will change the Property Tax Credit Act which has recently given farmers and ranchers across the state a break in real estate taxes. Legislative Bill (LB) 13 would take the property tax relief from the agricultural sector and give it to homeowners.

White has introduced LB 13 and Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska (ICON) directors have named this bill as one of the bills they are watching. In essence, it would change the property tax credit currently received by landowners to be a tax credit for urban homeowners. White feels his bill will not have much luck this year. A hearing for the bill is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 20. It is also possible the property tax credit will be abandoned when the final budget cuts are in. In a conference call with ICON directors, White said he was alarmed at the amount of money which leaves the state because of this property tax credit. For example, he noted Ted Turner received $73,000 in tax credits last year. He said Nebraska cannot keep giving money away to nonresident landowners.

The Nebraska Farmers Union estimates 50 percent of land in Nebraska is owned by people who don t live in the state. He assured ICON directors he understands the situation in rural Nebraska and the people-drain which is going on. He wants to take a serious look at changing Nebraska s tax code. He said we as a state need to turn things around. It is the third quarter and rural Nebraska is losing out, White said. He would like to see a tax code which rewards people who live and work on the land, but the way the state collects taxes needs to change. There needs to be more income or sales tax monies created.

If things don t change, White believes it will kill the family farm. White would like to see owning land in Nebraska economically expensive for those who don t live on it. Nebraskans are running out of time, he said. Al Davis, ICON director and treasurer from Hyannis, NE, questioned White about changing the tax code and explained to him the burden it would place on an economically challenged rural economy at the present time. Davis said if he sells a calf he raised for $560, $110 from each calf sold will be used to pay his property taxes. The small tax credit rural farmers and ranchers receive now makes farming a little bit more profitable.

White said he realized rural dwellers are land rich and cash poor, but the change needs to start somewhere. More money needs to be funneled to small farmers and not Ted Turner.

It is not a long-term goal, but a short-term fix. White also agreed it will be hard to agree on how to get there. Out-of-state people hunting maybe once a year on Nebraska land do not deserve tax credits.

White would like to see a tax system which encourages Nebraska residents, not penalizes them. ICON Director Chris Abbott of Gordon, NE, said it will take time to educate urban residents, but it’s time to get their attention. The whole state needs to start talking about it and this may get the fires going.

Teamwork will be needed to make it happen. — WLJ