State Senator Williams addresses taxes, budget concerns during visit to Callaway

Staff Writer

Nebraska State Senator Matt Williams was in Callaway Dec. 28 to address issues facing the Legislature for the session which opens Wednesday, Jan. 3.

About twenty business people, farmers and ranchers, along with school board members and administration, gathered at the senior center in Callaway to listen, ask questions and make comments.

The dominant issue to face the Nebraska Unicameral is continued revenue shortfall, Williams said. The projected budget shortfall is approximately $200 million.

Other top concerns will be the state corrections system, addressing problem with Health and Human Services reimbursements, and property taxes.

“The Governor is looking at income and property taxes,” Williams said. “In my Legislative District, if you tell me income taxes are a problem, I’m going to be surprised.”

Questions and comments from the audience included comments on the reliance of education funding on property taxes and the potential for a referendum on property taxes.

“At some point we (agricultural property owners) can no longer pay,” rancher and entrepreneur Jim Jenkins said.

In addressing frustration expressed by Callaway School Board President Duane Kimball, Williams acknowledged the difficult situation of meeting the rising percentage of salaries taking up school budgets and the requirement to be within a specific percentage of array of similar schools. “You’re hands are tied,” Williams said.

Williams shared information with the crowd on economic growth of crop and livestock production, agricultural tax exemptions, the state’s General Fund 2017-2019 (biennium budget)) and a list of all 249 Nebraska School Districts, equalization aid each receives and the cost per pupil.

Williams is optimistic that the budget will be balanced but that may be all that gets done in the short Legislative session. “I think we will balance the budget with the least amount of pain possible,” he said. “There won’t be a lot else accomplished.”

Read more about Sen. Williams' talk in the Jan. 4, 2018 issue of the Custer County Chief.