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Taxes, marijuana traffic issues of concern to state says Schilz

 

Ken Schilz has had a busy year.

The state senator from the 47th district explained during this week’s Legislative Forum in Sidney the concerns expressed over taxation, water use and even the pressure on law enforcement due to Colorado’s legalization of marijuana—and how the state is dealing with those issues.

This summer, Schilz served on the tax modernization committee. Their main focus has been addressing the state’s tax structure.

“In my mind, no matter what you do, the taxes are always too high,” Schilz said.

Traveling around the state, the committee often hears concerns over spending and property tax. The governor has come up with a plan to get some tax relief by using the reserve.

“I don’t necessarily believe that looking to the reserve is a way to get reliable property tax relief over time. One-time shop, maybe you could get away with it, but over time, it’s too boggled. It’s our rainy day fund. It’s also our cash-flow fund that makes sure we have the ability to pay for what we need to. So, I don’t know if we want to go there,” Schilz said.

According to the senator, the University of Nebraska receives $674 million per year from the general fund contributions from the state of Nebraska. The committee is looking there to possibly help aid the relief.

“The best tax relief to have, in my mind, is the tax that you don’t collect. If we use the rainy day fund, then what happens is everybody has to put in for a tax credit, which then the state will decide who should get it and who shouldn’t,” Schilz explained. “The best way to do that is make it so you don’t have to collect the tax in the first place. Then that makes it easier and more efficient for everybody.”

Schilz has started to take a look at how the community college system is funded. According to the senator, right now it is basically paid for through the property tax system of the counties. He believes that if those costs were shifted over, causing the state to take over some of those costs, there would be significant benefits on the property tax side.

Schilz also serves on the water funding task force. They have been trying to figure out funding for water projects that currently exist and which projects need funding going forward to make sure that water is being managed and used as efficiently as possible—and that it is being maintained for future generations.

Companies are trying to figure out how to make their products using less water in an attempt to cut costs and make more revenue.

“Stay tuned because this thing is changing rapidly and the state of Nebraska will be right in the center of it all because of our aquifer system and our ability to store that water, and just the fact that we have that much water available to us right now,” Schilz said.

One issue that has surfaced in this district that was not apparent five years ago is Colorado’s legalization of marijuana. Law enforcement agencies on the border have witnessed an increase in both traffic and arrests, but are concerned about keeping up.

“It is absolutely draining the ability of these agencies to do their jobs,” Schilz explained. “It presents a fundamental question, ‘What do you want to do? Do you want to continue to throw more and more money at something that isn’t going to go away probably?’ I’m guessing that Colorado isn’t going to turn around next year and change their laws.”

The increased number of drug busts are causing backlog in the judicial system, and if violators of this law miss their court date, then a warrant has to be issued. These issues are going to start to weigh heavily on the state in the near future.

“Something is going to have to be done, either more money or we’re going to have to figure out how to do things different on the enforcement end,” Schilz said. “Those are the unintended consequences of things that happen someplace else and how we have to deal with them here.”

 

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