Governor Pillen at the Holthus Convention Center

Governor Pillen continues to call for property tax reform, makes stop in York

YORK – Governor Jim Pillen continues his crusade, calling for property tax reform in Nebraska. He made a stop in York this past week and was greeted by nearly 50 people in attendance.

Cornerstone Bank’s Kelly Holthus introduced Governor Pillen, reflecting on his many years of knowing Pillen, saying he admires “what he is trying to do. Thank you for these townhall meetings.”

“We have been talking about property taxes, well, now is the time to do something about it,” the governor said. “It is time to have transformative conversation about it.”

The governor has often talked about how a meeting with tribal leaders in South Sioux City stuck with him as a man spoke about how things done now can have the impact to affect as many as seven generations from now. “We need to think long-term and beyond our driveways and our counties, to make a positive difference that will be felt seven generations from now.”

He reflected back to when he became governor and he met “with countless agencies, with a goal to present a budget of 0% growth in spending and we ended up with 2 ½% growth. I believe the intent of government is for safety, education and infrastructure. The state patrol had fallen behind so we increased their spending, which is part of how we ended up at 2 ½%. But we said no to almost everything else as far as spending increases.

“We believe we can run government like a business, we can reduce spending and improve services. We are working hard to do this,” Governor Pillen said. “We will reduce spending by the state by $500 million and all the key people are in. We are having transformative change taking place. We can change the processes and still have extraordinary change.”

He talked about how, when he started farming, he had no intention of participating in the farm program. But his father changed his mind, asking how he was going to compete with his neighbors if he didn’t participate in a federal program while they all were. He ended up participating in the federal farm program and that experience prompted him to also reach out to other governors about getting more federal dollars into Nebraska.

“We are now working very hard to get our share of federal dollars,” Governor Pillen said. “I get ticked off when I find out we are giving our federal dollars to California.”

He said he spends two to three days a month in Washington DC, with that effort and intent in mind.

He says by accessing more federal funds – “which will just be given to other states if Nebraska doesn’t pursue them” – the need for property taxes will decrease.

Governor Pillen says his plan to reduce property taxes is critical – “and if we don’t get our state senators on track with our plan . . . well then they are voting for an increase.”

The governor said the state’s property taxes have gone up $500 billion in five years – yet only $300 million in the last year.

In the effort to reduce property tax burden, he talked about the state’s financial support of state colleges rather than the support being on the backs of local property taxpayers, “which strengthens community college and we can have influence.”

He talked about the state’s property tax credit program – which in 2023 provided for $750 million in tax relief yet $250 million of that wasn’t taken by Nebraskans. “We need to stop this rebate garbage, we are proposing front-loading those credits.”

“And then we need to talk about hard caps; we need to challenge our counties, municipalities and school districts to get flat-lined, and if you need more money, then it needs to be taken to the people for a vote,” the governor said further.

As he has said many times in the last year, he admits to never attending a meeting of a village board, city council, county commission or school board. He now realizes, he says, how important that involvement at the local level is.

“We are simply asking everyone to hold it straight, have no increases,” the governor said. “As far as unfunded mandates, we are calling that effort ‘operation clean the closets out.’ Let’s stop the unfunded mandates being put upon local government by the state government.”

He also believes another facet of cutting property taxes is to impose sales tax on certain services. “We have to assess the economy we have today. We are more of a service economy and we need to place sales tax on services. I’m a fundamental believer in a broad tax base. We have to get to a 40% property tax cut. A broad tax base lowers the taxes. And there are sin taxes – let’s pop the taxes on cigarettes, alcohol and beer. The key to this process is that we have to find other sources of revenue and we have to control spending.

“I believe we can get cities and counties to do things differently, every line item matters,” he continued. “We can do it, we just have to be courageous.”

District 24 State Senator Jana Hughes was also present, showing her support. She said “we need to modernize our sales tax structure, we need to tax services, cut unfunded mandates.”

“We need to hear your voices loud and clear in this effort,” the governor said to the crowd, “not the voices of the lobbyists. We will get it fixed, but we will need everyone’s help.”

Governor Pillen at the Holthus Convention Center

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