LINCOLN — Nebraska farm and ranch land owners got a little closer to sharing $20 million worth of new property tax credits Thursday.

State lawmakers advanced Legislative Bill 958 to the last of three rounds of consideration on a voice vote.

The measure represents one-half of a property tax relief package pushed by Gov. Pete Ricketts, who has made property tax reduction his top priority of the session.

As advanced, it would add $20 million annually to the state’s Property Tax Credit Fund. The new money would go to owners of agricultural land, boosting their property tax credit to about $108 per $100,000 of valuation, starting in 2017.

Under the bill, the amount allocated for tax credits to residential and commercial property owners would remain at the current level.

The credits appear as a line on the annual property tax statements.

As introduced, LB 958 would have capped the statewide growth of agricultural land valuations at 3 percent and tightened budget and levy limits on several local governments.

The Revenue Committee rejected nearly all of those original provisions after concluding that they would not be effective or would have unintended consequences.

On Thursday, lawmakers approved an amendment that removed the only remaining budget limit provision, one that would have affected community colleges.

Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis said community colleges were targeted because they increased the amount of money collected from property taxes faster than other local taxing entities.

He said the Legislature needs to take a closer look at their spending and decide whether Nebraska can afford all of its community colleges.

State Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island, who introduced the bill, said he agreed to remove the provision because it faced stiff opposition and could have jeopardized the bill.

The other part of Ricketts’ property tax plan, LB 959, cleared second-round debate Wednesday. Lawmakers are expected to vote Tuesday on final passage for both bills.

Contact the writer: 402-473-9583, martha.stoddard@owh.com

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