Filibuster blocks bill to limit property tax increases by K-12 schools

By: - February 8, 2022 12:26 pm
Floor of the Nebraska Legislature

State senators debate on the floor of the Nebraska Legislature at the Nebraska State Capitol Building. (Rebecca S. Gratz for Nebraska Examinerz)

LINCOLN — A multi-day filibuster has blocked a bill that would have imposed new taxing limitations on K-12 schools.

On a 28-21 vote, Legislative Bill 986 fell five votes short of halting the filibuster Tuesday and allowing a vote to advance the proposal from first-round debate.

Sen. Tom Briese
Sen. Tom Briese (Rebecca S. Gratz for the Nebraska Examiner)

The bill, entitled the “School District Property Tax Limitation Act,” sought to prohibit school districts from increasing property taxes by no more than 2.5% or inflation, whichever is greater. LB 986 would have allowed those limits to be exceeded with a vote of 75% of a school board’s members or 60% of registered voters at an election.

State Sen. Tom Briese of Albion, who made the bill his personal priority, said it was a way to ensure that property tax credits provided by the Nebraska Legislature translate into reductions in local property taxes, not just slowing increases.

It marked the second year in a row that a legislative attempt to impose more fiscal caps on K-12 school districts failed. Briese expressed frustration that the education lobby wasn’t willing to seek a middle ground, but instead adopted a “just say no” attitude.

“Our failure to act really tees it up for folks who want to put a cap proposal on the ballot,” he said.

Opponents of the bill, led by Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, argued that the new cap would hurt large and growing school districts, like those in Lincoln and Bennington. Other critics said that school spending has not been irresponsible and that local school boards are best able to decide local budgets.

Hansen said he is normally willing to seek compromises, but LB 986 was “just flat-out bad policy.”

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska state government and the state for decades. Previously with the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha Sun, he is a member of the Omaha Press Club's Hall of Fame. He grows hops, brews homemade beer, plays bass guitar and basically loves traveling and writing about the state. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation.