Low commodity prices mean property tax relief needed
September 16, 2016
A summer of rain and green grass for most of the sandhills is rapidly fading away. However, this has also been a summer of low commodity prices for all agricultural producers across Nebraska.
The decline in commodity prices has been anticipated for some time but it is always jarring when the reality hits home. Wheat and corn are well below break-even, and cattle prices have seen a dramatic plunge in value over the past year. A quick glance at charts on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange indicate an astounding decline in every ag commodity traded- corn, wheat, soybeans, live cattle, and lean hogs.
If I were a financial wizard I would be trading the futures market, where tremendous fortunes can be made and lost within a few days' time; the high rollers on that board must consume a bottle of Pepto-Bismol with cup of their morning coffee. It's far too risky a business for someone who can't devote their full attention to it, and someone who has a grasp of the psychology of the market and the product available.
The reality of low commodity prices is hitting home in Nebraska, and the results are not pretty. Riding the crest of a wave on the way up is exhilarating and enjoyable; riding it down is another matter completely. Look around your neighborhood and you will find farmers and ranchers putting a very sharp pencil to their income statements and balance sheets as they anticipate hard questions from their lender. In other businesses across the District #43, the decline in ag prices is being felt too. Fewer cars, trucks, and tractors are sold, which leads to declines in manufacturing and additional layoffs. All of this shows itself to the local economy and the state in the form of reduced sales tax revenue.
Low commodity prices give new urgency to the call for property tax relief. Over the past four years I have introduced bill after bill to try and bring property tax relief to our state. My efforts are acknowledged and respected, but garnering significant relief has been nearly impossible because the only way to bring property tax relief to Nebraska is to enact a tax shift of one kind or another.
Today we are hearing the call for income tax relief which will "accompany" property tax relief. Don't believe it for a moment. Omaha's wealthy care little about life in the 43rd District, the hardships imposed on grain and cattle producers who have been paying confiscatory property taxes for some time, or those who will be underwater before the property tax bill arrives as a grisly Christmas present in December. The gurus in the east like to say that property taxes are a local issue, but the obligations imposed on school districts, counties, and cities by the state are astounding.
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The old three-legged stool doesn't sit very even these days. The property leg represents 40% of the stool, and this has to change. I urge all of you to get involved in the many organizations who are working for property tax reform. You may be surprised to find that organizations representing school districts, teachers, and counties may be walking hand in hand with you towards a solution. Just make sure the Legislature hears the call before it's too late. F