LINCOLN — Nebraska will need more time than a few months to reform its tax system, a Georgia economist said Tuesday.
He told a panel of state lawmakers looking at updating and improving Nebraska's tax system that a similar reform effort in the State of Georgia was postponed, then pared back considerably, in part because it was crafted in only four months.
A package of bold changes became a fairly modest slate of reductions in state income taxes.
“We got hammered,” said David Sjoquist, an economist with Georgia State University, who worked with Georgia on its proposed reforms.
Sjoquist and fellow economist with the university, Sally Wallace, were among the tax authorities briefing members of the Tax Modernization Commission on Tuesday. The commission was formed by the Nebraska Legislature to study ways to make the state's tax structure more competitive.
Sjoquist, an authority on state corporate and personal income taxes, said that Georgia gave its reform commission four months to craft a reform plan. That, he said, wasn't enough time to sell the ambitious set of reforms the commission developed to state lawmakers and the public.
One member of the Nebraska tax group, State Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, said he feels that the modernization commission doesn't have enough time to develop its recommendations, which are due on Dec. 15.
Mello said if the group took two years, that would take some of the politics out of it since 2014 is an election year.
Sjoquist, however, did say that turnover in a political office can also frustrate tax reforms. If the Nebraska Legislature waited until 2015 to debate tax reform, Gov. Dave Heineman would be out of office, and 17 current state senators would have left office due to term limits.