LINCOLN — State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha has placed a target on a new law allowing cities to increase local sales taxes up to 2 cents total.
He introduced a bill Wednesday that would repeal the law, which passed last year over a gubernatorial veto.
Cities, including Omaha and Lincoln, pushed hard to get the option approved.
It allows cities to increase local sales taxes as much as a half-cent above what had previously been allowed. The increases must be approved by voters and directed to specified purposes.
Legislative Bill 266 would eliminate that additional tax option, leaving the maximum local sales tax for cities at the previous 1½-cent limit.
Chambers has long opposed sales taxes, arguing that they fall hardest on the people least able to afford additional costs.
Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, who pushed through last year's bill and is a candidate in the Omaha mayor's race, said he was not surprised about Chambers' bill.
“The Dudley Do-Right of the Legislature, my friend Sen. Chambers, is protecting the taxpayer,” Ashford said. “Ernie doesn't like sales taxes.”
But Ashford defended the tax option, saying it gives cities a needed tool and should remain in the law.
Voters in Waterloo and Alma are the first to approve an additional half-cent tax.
Sales taxes in both towns will go to 7½ cents total, starting April 1.
Waterloo Deputy Clerk Melissa Johnson said a strong majority of local residents supported the tax during the November election.
Money collected from it will be used for streets and infrastructure repairs. The tax has a 10-year sunset.
Voters in Sidney also approved an additional half-cent, to take effect July 1.
But voters elsewhere have nixed proposals. In Nebraska City, voters rejected a proposal to use the new taxing authority to pay for a pool and fiber optics. And Bellevue voters turned down a proposed half-cent sales tax increase in November. The additional revenue was to be used for infrastructure, such as roads, storm sewers and sidewalks, to help spur growth along Fort Crook Road and in Olde Towne.
LB 266 was the first bill Chambers introduced since he returned to the Legislature. Term limits forced him to sit out four years.
Contact the writer:402-473-9583, email@example.com
More Legislature coverage, resources
• Map: Find your senator