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'It's not our money' — Ricketts, Linehan say $400 million state surplus needs to go back to taxpayers
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'It's not our money' — Ricketts, Linehan say $400 million state surplus needs to go back to taxpayers

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Return to sender.

Gov. Pete Ricketts and Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, chairwoman of the Legislature's Revenue Committee, vowed Thursday to return $400 million in surplus state revenue back to taxpayers rather than use it to increase state spending.

Speaking at a joint news conference in the Capitol Rotunda, with five other members of the Revenue Committee at their side, Ricketts and Linehan slammed the door on spending hikes.

"Nobody should be coming into this (legislative) session thinking we will be spending a lot more money," Ricketts said.

"We will give the money back to the people. It's not our money; it's the people of Nebraska's money."

Linehan said the Legislature should focus on efforts to "control spending so we can cut taxes."

The surplus of revenue provides "significant funding over and above our needs," she said. "It's not normally acceptable to keep $400 million to $500 million of taxpayers' money that we do not need."

Working together as a committee, Linehan said, "we'll manage to bring tax relief to every Nebraskan across the state."

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The Revenue Committee appears poised to consider a reduction in corporate and personal income taxes, perhaps with an eye toward proposing major tax reform that would shift more of the tax burden to the sales tax by eliminating exemptions for a wide range of services.  

Ricketts said he will continue to focus on controlling state spending during his final year as governor. He'll be term-limited out of office at the end of the year.

The governor said the Legislature needs to act now to establish a 3% limit on annual property tax increases imposed by local governments, including public schools. His earlier effort to win legislative approval of the proposed lid fell four votes short of advancement.

The state "needs some control over property taxes," Linehan said. "We need some agreement across the state that limits increases."

Nebraska has to control taxes "if we want people to stay here," she said.

"Young adults are very savvy," Linehan said, and the state needs to reduce the tax load "if we want young people in Nebraska."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

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