By Steve White, Grand Island Bureau Chief - bio | email
Nebraska lawmakers plan to tackle everything from gay rights to gun rights this year. But it's the governor's agenda to cut taxes that has people talking, especially in agriculture.
Farmer Ned Meier gave Lieutenant Governor Rick Sheehy a piece of his mind Thursday.
Why, he asks, would the state want to charge sales tax on the expenses farmers have, like equipment that's already assessed a personal property tax.
"This system of sales tax on expenses and inputs, I do not think is a good idea," Meier said.
Sheehy re-affirms the governor's position, that this is about changing the tax climate by ending the income tax. He spoke Thursday at the Ag Outlook conference at the Heartland Events Center.
He said, "It's been nearly five decades since we'd had discussions and we're trying to find ways to move Nebraska forward to make Nebraska an even better place to live, work, and raise a family in the future."
Farmers are currently exempt from paying sales tax on many items. But under the governor's plan, they would pay hundreds of millions on seed, chemicals, and machinery.
Meier said, "Sometimes all they worry about is generating the amount of taxes, they don't care where it comes from."
As Meier speaks his mind, the governor and lieutenant governor are getting an earful in similar fashion wherever they go.
Sheehy said, "We're hearing from friends in agriculture, we're hearing from friends in manufacturing, we're hearing from the medical community."
Some farmers agree the state needs to end the income tax. They say it'll keep young people in the state and attract businesses.
But many are like Ned, they'd rather pay a tax based on how we'll they're doing, not how much they're spending.
The Grand Island area farmer said, "I am certainly willing to pay an income tax on profits I've made but to be taxed when I don't make a profit, I really have a problem with."
The governor has two separate proposals that would undo sales tax exemptions.
Now it's up to senators to debate the plan. No date has been set to hear the proposals.