Tax authority may be ‘gone with the wind’

Tax authority may be ‘gone with the wind’

By Juan Perez Jr. May 22, 2013 10:31 am Comments


State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha may win his efforts to rescind the city’s authority to impose an extra half-cent of local sales taxes.

Two of our pals in Lincoln — Joe Duggan and Paul Hammel — report that similar efforts, aimed at all Nebraska cities, failed twice earlier this legislative session. But a late 30-5 vote on Tuesday gives Chambers a victory on his third attempt to repeal his city’s taxing authority.

“This is a righteous and just vote that was taken today, and it removes a cloud from above the heads of poor and limited-income people,” Chambers said afterward.

The City of Omaha’s official position was to retain the taxing authority, which the Legislature passed last year over the governor’s veto. Omaha elected officials have not yet sought to increase the sales tax, which would require a vote of the people. The amendment was attached to a bill providing incentives for wind energy, which must now pass final reading and obtain Gov. Dave Heineman’s signature before it becomes law.

Duggan and Hammel also say the stance of Omaha Mayor-elect Jean Stothert, who opposes the half-cent law, also influenced Tuesday’s surprising vote.

Several lobbyists, including Jack Cheloha, who lobbies for the city, said some lawmakers switched their votes after Stothert indicated the half-cent law was no longer needed by Omaha.

Stothert said Tuesday she had not spoken to a single senator on the issue. But she is no fan of the added taxing authority.

As a member of the Omaha City Council, she voted against supporting the half-cent sales tax bill last year. She said she would not be saddened to see the taxing authority go away if the repeal ultimately passes.

“Raising taxes is not something I support,” Stothert said. “I certainly don’t have any plans to raise the sales tax in Omaha.”