McCOOK, Nebraska -- Despite opposition from State Sen. Mark Christensen, LB 400 was approved by Gov. Dave Heineman Thursday. Earlier that day, during a morning conference call with the McCook Area Chamber of Commerce, Christensen had called the bill a tax increase and saw a veto by Heineman as a possibility.
The bill authorizes additional funds for the Nebraska Natural Resources Districts to be used to set up and maintain their integrated management plans. Christensen elaborated then that the plans were not a temporary tool that would go away but rather would be a part of the NRD operations going forward, locking in the need for the funds on a long-term basis. "I consider it a tax increase, but it's evident by the 48-1 vote that no one else did," said Christensen, referring to its passage on final reading Wednesday, prior to being presented to the governor.
Dan Smith, manager for the Middle Republican Natural Resources District, told the Gazette via email Friday that "LB 400, as amended, is good legislation for the fully- and over-appropriated NRDs that are the only ones eligible to levy that tax.
"The Water Resources Cash Fund that was enhanced by LB 229, with additional state funds and $3.3 million from the lottery, requires a 40 percent match. Without the continued additional authority in LB 400, it would be difficult for many of us smaller NRDs in the western two thirds of the state to come up with enough matching funds for a worthwhile project."
Smith said his NRD had used up to about two, of the three cents authorized by LB 400 and added that nothing was levied for this year and two cents was planned for the coming year.
Smith believed the impact to be very minimal on property owners, saying that while it varied from county to county, the average persons tax bill was about two dollars per hundred dollars of valuation. "An NRDs regular 3.5 cents authority then represents about two percent of your total tax bill.
"The extended authority of LB 400 would represent an increase of less than two percent of your total bill," said Smith.
The approved version of LB 400 extends an additional 3-cent occupation tax, which was due to expire in 2012, to the 2017-18 budget year.
The three cents brings the maximum amount an NRD could levy up to 8.5 cents per hundred dollars of valuation, with the extra three cents restricted to use for ground water management activities only.