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True tax relief will require tough decisions
Propose elimination of a school, county agency or local governmental position, and you’ll hear an uproar, with good reason.
We all have friends who work in that office, teach in that school or depend on the tax dollars it brings to the community.
The closing of a school sounded the death knell of many a small community or at least portended it.
Faced with a budget shortfall, government at all levels must look at supply and demand — with the exception of the federal government, which has happily rolled up trillions of dollars in deficit spending over recent decades.
The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry passed along some information the sheds light on Nebraska’s budget problems.
State and local governments have the 12th highest per-capita spending in the nation and the seventh highest number of state and local public employees per capita.
Nebraska’s public union membership is 22nd highest in the nation at 29 percent, higher than any neighboring state except Iowa.
Of nearly 150,000 state and local public employees, about 75 percent are employed by local governments that are funded by property taxes.
K-12 public school districts account for about 60 percent of the average Nebraska property tax bill, and about 16 percent of the average property tax bill goes to county government.
New Mexico has about 200,000 more residents than Nebraska, but Nebraska has nearly 100 more public high schools — 424 high schools in Nebraska, including 375 public and 49 private schools.
We’re 37th of the 50 states in student enrollment, and spent an average of $13,833 per student in 2013, compared to a national average of $11,841, according to NPR.org.
Similar in size to Nebraska, South Dakota has 237 fewer square miles, but only 66 counties, compared to Nebraska’s 93 and New Mexico’s 33 counties.
The homesteading of Nebraska moved more people into the state than agriculture could support at the time, and horse-drawn transportation has given way to mile-a-minute vehicle travel and light-speed electronic communication that wasn’t dreamed of when the state’s 93 counties were established.
Clearly, to have meaningful spending reductions and increases in efficiency, Nebraska needs to take a long, hard look at combining taxing entities and eliminating duplication of services.