LINCOLN — A group of tax activists has taken the first step toward launching a new property tax petition drive, in the wake of an earlier, aborted effort.

The drive would aim for the 2020 general election ballot.

The proposal filed with the Secretary of State’s office last week would give income tax credits to Nebraska property owners equal to 35 percent of property taxes paid. Taxpayers who paid more in property taxes than they owe in income taxes would get a check for the balance.

Sponsors of the new proposal included Doug Kagan of Omaha, president of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, along with Paul von Behren of Ames, Barb Otto of Spencer, Rob Rohrbough of Omaha, Doug Wittmann or Dodge, Terry Jessen of Oshkosh and Kris Pierce of Omaha.

A separate, earlier petition drive sought to save property taxpayers about $1.1 billion, but it was abruptly ended in late April. Trent Fellers, a spokesman for that petition effort, said at the time that backers had doubts about continuing to pursue the ballot measure.

If passed, that earlier proposal would have provided income tax credits to Nebraska property owners equal to 50 percent of the school property taxes they pay, about 30 percent of their total property tax bill.

Property taxes remain a hot political topic, especially for Nebraska farmers and ranchers who saw property valuations rise steeply in the recent past.

The previous petition had support from the Nebraska Farm Bureau and other agriculture groups.

But Gov. Pete Ricketts and business groups opposed the petition, saying it would raise taxes to cut taxes. Others warned that it could force “devastating” cuts in needed government services.

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Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-473-9583.

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