LINCOLN (AP) — Nebraska state Sen. Annette Dubas, a candidate for governor, announced plans Wednesday to introduce a property tax relief measure when lawmakers convene next year.
The Democratic hopeful from Fullerton said her proposal would focus on reducing the property tax burden for homeowners and renters, who pay the tax indirectly to their landlords. She also took a jab at Republican Gov. Dave Heineman, saying he was "late to the game."
"The governor has been in office for nine years and has never led on this issue," Dubas said during the announcement. "When I am governor, property taxes won't be a year eight issue. It will be a day one issue."
Property tax rates were one of the most common complaints raised by Nebraskans during a series of summer tax hearings. The Legislature's Tax Modernization Committee started looking at possible tax reforms shortly after Heineman withdrew his plan to cut or eliminate Nebraska's income tax. Heineman agreed to shelve the income tax plan after it drew criticism from business groups, nonprofits and others.
Dubas said she has spoken informally with some committee members about her proposal and would release more details before the session begins in January. She said state aid for K-12 education would be part of her proposal.
A Heineman spokeswoman pointed to a state property tax credit program that the governor proposed and approved in 2005, which generates $115 million in direct property tax relief each year. Heineman has also argued that property taxes are set by local school boards, county commissioners and city councils, and that giving them additional state money would only encourage them to spend it.
In a statement, Heineman criticized Dubas for her support of a 2012 measure that extended prenatal care benefits to pregnant woman who have entered the United States illegally.
"It's obvious that the political season is beginning, and I am disappointed that State Senator Dubas is going to use her 'nonpartisan' office to promote her partisan campaign agenda for governor," Heineman said. "I challenge State Senator Dubas to explain why she voted to have the hard-earned tax dollars of Nebraska's farmers and ranchers go to state benefits for illegals."
Dubas is competing with former University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook in the Democratic primary. Five Republicans are also running on promises to cut taxes. Heineman is leaving office in 2015 because of term limits.
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