Though state legislators passed a bill that included property tax relief in August, state Sen. Ben Hansen expects property taxes to still be a priority when the 107th Nebraska Legislature reconvenes Jan. 6.
“I think there's still an appetite for it,” said Hansen, who represents District 16, which includes Washington, Burt and Cuming counties.
In August, senators passed Legislative Bill 1107, which created a new state income tax credit expected to provide a 3% reduction in overall property taxes initially. Funding for the credit is anticipated to grow from $125 million in the first year to $375 million after three to five years.
“I think what we passed last year helped, in my opinion, on the surface,” Hansen said. “But it kind of didn't really handle the underlying issue of why we have high property taxes in the first place, which has to do with school funding, which has to do with a whole bunch of other stuff.”
Last January, Hansen introduced LB 1213, which was intended to reform Nebraska's tax code, provide transparency regarding property tax requests of political subdivisions and change how the state funds K-12 public education. The legislation is similar to what other states, such as Colorado and North Carolina, have passed successfully.
“I'd like to see some of that change happen in Nebraska instead of just throwing more money at the problem,” Hansen said.
Hansen was uncertain if he would introduce the bill again. However, he said property tax relief remains his No. 1 priority.
“That's what I ran on, that's what I'm here for, that's what I think people here elected me for,” he said.
Hansen would also like to see the Legislature address the growing concerns about the state's correctional facilities, which have seen overcrowding and unsafe work environments for corrections officers.
“I'm a limited government kind of person. To me, there is only certain roles government should play in our lives and one of them is maintaining safety of citizens of the state of Nebraska. One of them is in the corrections,” Hansen said. “It is the state's responsibility to make sure we do have room for inmates and we make sure we have safety for our workers. That's something I would like to work on with some of the other senators.”
Expanding broadband internet to rural areas is also a high priority for Hansen.
“It's a growing concern,” he said. “I've been in contact with a couple of the telecommunication companies in Nebraska about ways that we can kind of increase that.”
Hansen said the coronavirus pandemic showed the needed for better internet around the state, but particularly in rural areas for things like telehealth.
“It really opened the door and kind of almost pushed us in a certain direction which we needed to go anyway,” he said.
Hansen, who is in his third year as state senator, said he is more prepared for this session than he was previously and is more familiar with how the process works. He has worked to better communication with his constituents, too.
“I try to make myself as accessible as I can to that I make sure I hear people properly in my district, especially,” he said.
Hansen previously served on the Agriculture, Business and Labor and Health and Human Services committees and hopes to continue serving those committees. He is running for chair of the Business and Labor committee against state Sen. Matt Hansen.