Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dave Heineman: Tax Shifter

by Kyle Michaelis
Gov. Dave Heineman and the Omaha World-Herald have been fairly brutal and one-sided in their denouncement of efforts by state legislators to address voters' concerns about Nebraska's property taxes.

As the New Nebraska Network has (constantly) reported over the last month, Heineman and the World-Herald have combined rhetoric and joined forces in an attempt to convince voters that their own checkbooks are lying to them and that - despite all evidence to the contrary - the tax they should really want to see cut is the state's income tax. And, not only that, but they should also support shifting the tax burden onto the backs of working-class families to benefit the state's wealthiest citizens.

Why? Because Heineman and the World-Herald said so. Duh!

To build a case for such an argument, the most consistent weapon in their arsenal has been the notion that the state's attempts to relieve property taxes collected at the local level amount only to "tax shifts," not actual tax cuts. Needless to say, I've found this particular line of attack an incredibly illogical one reliant on an unnatural understanding of tax policy that completely disregards the inescapable fluidity and interconnectedness between state and local governments.

Still, even giving Heineman and the World-Herald's charges the intellectual weight they do not deserve, it is very telling that - when pressed - even Heineman caves in to the public's demands for property tax relief. In fact, as numerous proposals for credits, circuit breakers, and exemptions intended to lighten the property tax burden on homeowners are being debated by the Legislature's Revenue Committee, Heineman is cynically using his budget's promise of a "tax shift" as one of its primary selling points.

In an article last week comparing Heineman's LB 331 (targeting income and estate taxes) with the most talked about alternative - Sen. Tom White's LB 453 (providing homeowners a $500 reimbursement from their property taxes), the World-Herald reported:
Heineman...says his proposed budget includes property tax relief because it would boost state aid to schools and local government to an average of $1.2 billion per year, a record.
Ironic, huh? To salvage his larger tax agenda, Heineman is actually relying on the idea that tax shifting works. He knows that both Senators and voters remain persistent in their calls for property tax relief, so he's counting on the very same strategy he'd denounced for months to suffice and to appease their demands - mainly, throwing money at local governments and expecting that to do the trick.

One minute, tax shifts are a bad idea. The next, they're the backbone of the governor's make-shift plan for property tax relief. Amazing, wouldn't you say?

Of course, the truth behind a budget is always a question of the priorities it reflects. No matter Heineman's disingenuous and contradictory arguments, his plan to boost funding to public education is the least direct and most precarious form of property tax relief. It can hardly even be taken seriously as such - offering far less appreciable difference on this front than any of the actual property tax credits and exemptions that are also being debated.

Property taxes are not Heineman's priority. Accoding to prior statements, they are hardly even his concern. That Heineman would even make argument to the contrary reeks of desperation. It speaks to a man starting to realize just how little common ground exists between his agenda and that of most Nebraskans.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should write a story about one of your own - Nantkes, her drunk escapades and her scandal in the rotunda

Blogger Mel Gibson said...

I'm pretty sure all those Americans killed in Iraq by the Bushies would rather be home alive partying with Nantkes. Yep, pretty sure.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mel - please tell me where we should fight the terrorists? or are you stupid enough to believe there aren't any?

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

Sen. Nantkes made a very bad choice, and I'm sure she will pay a heavy price for it. But, I also have no doubt that she will rise above this incident and regain the trust of her constituents.

Believe it or not, i have nothing else to say on the matter.

Now, can we get back to the discussion about Nebraska's future?

Anonymous Jared said...

I'd say we are talking about Nebraska's future, doesn't Ms. Nantkes make policy in this regard?! Don't you think we should hold our elected officials to a higher standard?

Blogger Pooga said...

Ah... shades of Pelosigate. When the debate turns to issues you don't want to discuss (because you are clearly on the wrong side of the issue), over-hype an unrelated and largely irrelevant story that distracts attention from the matter at hand. Since the only story I've seen on this is a fairly straightforward presentation of the facts in the Journal Star, let's hope what's left of what can be called Nebraska's MSM is under-equipped to stir up the histeria like the national MSM can.


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