Nebraska legislators debated the issue of local sales taxes Monday, when Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha introduced an amendment to repeal the local option sales tax changes of last year.Last session, senators allowed communities to increase local sales taxes from 1.5 percent up to 2 percent, if the affected voters approved.
On Thursday, a vote to adopt Chambers' amendment failed 23-16, just two votes short of the required 25.
A motion by Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha to reconsider the vote Monday failed on a narrow vote of 22-25.
Sen. Jerry Johnson of Wahoo said five cities have put the issue on a ballot, and three approved.
“I think the system is working,” he said. “It is local control.”
Voters in Sidney, Alma and Waterloo have each approved local sales tax increases to 2 percent, while voters in Bellevue and Nebraska City have turned down local option sales tax increases.
Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha, who voted against the motion to reconsider, said the effort this year to broaden the sales tax base was rejected.
For example, people didn’t want a sales tax on university dorm rooms, he said.
The sales tax isn’t the only regressive tax, he said.
“Property taxes are regressive, too,” Nordquist said.
Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial voted for the reconsideration.
“I’ve never seen a government yet that couldn’t spend more money,” he said.
Chambers said he was not done with the tax issue this session.
“This amendment is going to be like Dracula,” he said.
The Tax Modernization Committee will study the state's tax system later this year and is to issue its report by Dec. 15.