A bill from State Sen. Mark Christensen to refund property taxes that were later declared unconstitutional will be discussed at a legislative hearing scheduled today for the Revenue Committee.
The bill takes care of several issues that ultimately defeated a similar bill introduced last year to refund the taxes, Christensen said this morning at the McCook Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative conference call.
LB681 was defeated last year as several senators had concerns that it could apply to those opposing taxes levied for the for newly formed learning centers in the Omaha area.
Christensen's bill would allow for the option of refunding any unspent real or personal property taxes, occupation taxes, or assessments that have been declared unconstitutional by final court judgment or order.
According to the Statement of Intent, the bill makes three changes to last year's LB681. First, the political subdivision is not required to refund such tax, assessment, or penalty, but may refund such tax, assessment, or penalty.
Second, it limits the refunding of such unconstitutional tax, assessment, or penalty to those funds not yet expended. The third change is to make it more clear that the refund may be applied to satisfy any tax levied or assessed in the county.
The proposed bill clarifies that the refund would be made to the person paying the tax without the need for filing a claim for a refund.
It also spells out that taxes or assessment allowed to be refunded must have been declared unconstitutional by the Nebraska Supreme Court.
Several will be testifying in favor of the bill, Christensen said.
"We're better organized this year and addressed the right issues," he stated.
Reaction to LB1052, introduced by Christensen and called the Agricultural Production and Economic Stability and Assistance Act, has been amazingly quiet, he said, although lobbyists from the Omaha area have told him "it's the greatest thing they've seen."
Under the bill, state sales tax generated within 21⁄2 miles of any river, stream or tributary of the Republican River Basin would be redirected to eligible NRDs, to be used for managing water resources in the basin.
Christensen modeled his bill after another recently introduced bill that will expand the current Convention Center Facility Financing Assistance Act. This bill would allow Omaha to keep more of the state sales tax revenue generated around the Quest Center, whose primary purpose is entertainment, to help pay it off.
Christensen said if the state is willing to help with the entertainment and sports industry in Omaha, it should be willing to take care of compact compliance and economic stability in the Republican River Basin, especially since the Nebraska Supreme Court found that compliance with the Republican River Compact is a state obligation.
If economic health and growth is important in Omaha and Lincoln and the state wants to fund it, then it had better be important in the Republican River Basin, he reasoned.
"How can you deny using the same mechanism for the Basin when you allow it for sports and entertainment?" he pointed out.
But that rationale may not be good enough for the State Legislature.
"Just because it's a great argument doesn't necessarily mean it gets you anywhere," he admitted.