EPIC Option Town Hall Held at Lazy S Ranch
Big Turnout Learns About Innovative Tax Plan
October 12, 2023
SIDNEY--The Lazy S Ranch on the outskirts of Sidney hosted a town-hall style meeting at their facility Thursday night for Cheyenne County area taxpayers to learn more about the EPIC Option Consumption Tax plan. State Senator Steve Erdman (R-47 District) was in attendance and fielded questions after the presentation to a group of enthusiastic taxpayers eager to learn more about the plan and to better understand the workings of the plan. Erdman is the main sponsor of the plan, along with State Senator co-sponsors Tom Brewer, Robert Clements, Steve Halloran, Mike McDonnell, and Dave Murman.
Volunteers for EPIC Option have been canvassing the Panhandle area in recent months, holding meetings to educate taxpayers on the plan, and setting up tables to gather signatures for the petitions to get the EPIC Option on the ballot for November of 2024.
The EPIC acronym stand for "Eliminate Property, Income and Corporate Taxes". But that's just a short description of the plan that would completely overhaul how taxes are collected in Nebraska. Some opponents of the plan have called it "radical", while some proponents describe it as "innovative". Most Nebraskans agree that the state has a taxation problem, with high taxes plaguing growth and threatening the economic security of residents. In Cheyenne County, residents have had to deal with one of the state's highest tax rates, and many feel that there is very little return for the high taxes extracted by their government.
The EPIC Option was formulated by Steve Erdman and other like-minded individuals and representatives, and has been endorsed by economic heavyweights such as Stephen Moore and Nobel-Prize winning economist Art Laffer. Both economists have run the numbers, repeatedly, and keep coming up with the same results: not only will this plan replace the revenues generated by the system in place now, it will most likely bring in more revenue than before, while expanding economic growth and creating a more favorable business climate than neighboring states. And while also having safeguards built in to ensure there is no drop in revenues compared to our current "system".
In the Panhandle, the EPIC Option has been championed by Mark Bonkiewicz, former Sidney resident and spokesman for the EPIC Option Strategy Team. Bonkiewicz has tirelessly canvassed western Nebraska, educating taxpayers on the plan, holding town-hall meetings in support of EPIC Option, and coordinating canvassers to get the necessary signatures to get EPIC Option on the ballot for next November. Bonkiewicz's latest visit to the Cheyenne County area focused on the Town Hall meeting with Steve Erdman at the Lazy S Ranch on the outskirts of Sidney last Thursday. The Lazy S made sure the event was put on in style, with a nice charcuterie spread and candy and drinks available for attendees. There was also a cash bar available for those that desired an adult beverage.
There was a very good size crowd of about 75 at the event, filling all the available tables. Bonkiewicz started the presentation, and went into detail about the plan, how it originated and how more and more State Senators and individual taxpayers saw the benefits of the plan and signed on. Simply put, EPIC Option replaces Property, Income/Inheritance and Corporate taxes with a Consumption Tax. The Consumption Tax would apply to all new products purchased, as well as many services used by taxpayers. It would not apply to used items, including existing home sales. Bonkiewicz detailed the plan with handouts given to all participants, and the attendees followed along with great interest as Bonkiewicz showed the numbers, and the benefits, of the plan.
Senator Steve Erdman then addressed the crowd, and answered questions from attendees. There were a few people that expresses skepticism, but it became clear with Erdman and Bonkiewicz's answers that many of the reservations were based on a misunderstanding of certain details. By the end of the presentation, most attendees seemed very favorable to the plan, and were eager to help get the EPIC Option on the ballot.
There are opponents to the plan, such as Governor Jim Pillen, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and other tax-supported entities that do not want a change to a system that has been very good to them, regardless of the burdens placed upon taxpayers. These entities claim that the consumption tax rate of 7.23% would be way too low to replace the revenues, although the Beacon Hill Institute, commissioned by the EPIC Option Strategy Team to analyze the numbers, says otherwise. To see the entire Beacon Hill Institute report, go to https://epicconsumptiontax.org/the-study. Bonkiewicz says the reason for the disparity between the Beacon Hill study's numbers and what opponents claim is because opponents are using a static scoring model versus a dynamic scoring model. The Beacon Hill study includes conservative estimates of revenues from economic growth that will result from the plan, while opponents do not use any revenues from economic growth to come up with their numbers. Opponents are basically saying that eliminating property, income, inheritance and corporate taxes would have no effect on economic growth, which is disingenuous at best.
For example, from the Beacon Hill study, "a static estimate of a cut in the sales tax, say from 5 percent to 4 percent, would cause revenues to fall by 20 percent (= 5 – 4)/5). A dynamic estimate would show a smaller decrease in revenue because it would capture the positive effect on other revenue sources from the cut in the sales tax. In this example, businesses would have more money to make profitable investments in Nebraska, thus increasing investment, employment, and incomes which, in turn, would boost sales and property tax collections." There are also many "fail-safe" provisions in the EPIC Option plan to protect low-income families, retirees and others that are dependent upon tax revenues for services.
There are many details to the plan, and those interested should seek out more information at http://www.epicoption.org. The petition signatures needed to get the Epic Option on the ballot for the November 2024 election need to be collected by July 1, 2024. Bonkiewicz says that they are well on their way to getting the required signatures, but more signatures than necessary are always required because state officials will go through all of the signatures and disqualify any that have any discrepancies from official signatures on record, such as a middle initial in the signature when other documents have none, or a change in address that could strike the signature from the petition. Nebraskans that are looking to get out from under the byzantine and onerous Nebraska tax system will have their chance next fall as long as the EPIC Option petitions gather enough signatures.