LINCOLN–Small towns in Nebraska could get an economic boost to build workforce housing under a bill that beat back a filibuster Monday in the Legislature.
LB496, introduced by Sen. John Stinner of Gering, would use tax increment financing to support housing development in communities outside Omaha and Lincoln. Tax increment financing, or TIF, is a subsidy designed to use increased property taxes from a newly developed area to pay for streets, sidewalks and other public infrastructure associated with the development.
TIFs are often used to finance the redevelopment of blighted or substandard areas in cities where development has stalled. This puts new structures in the development area, which increases property values and helps city growth.
Stinner said there is a growing need for more workforce housing throughout the state. Fremont, Geneva, McCook, Ogallala and St. Paul are among the communities Stinner mentioned that have an existing workforce housing need.
Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, one of the senators who opposed the bill, fought to filibuster it.
“We have a property tax problem in this state and you are going to pass a bill that diverts property taxes away from our schools and puts more pressure on the property taxpayers out there?” Groene said.
Groene said he refuses to believe younger Nebraskans won’t move to smaller cities because there isn’t new housing. He also said that he likes TIFs when used correctly, but now they have a reputation for fueling greed from corporations and banks making money when using them for development of property, rather than redevelopment of inner cities.
Sen. Burke J. Harr of Omaha supported LB496 saying that it could initially have a negative effect on the housing market, but it would help in the long term.
“If you want to lower your property taxes long-term, we have to find a way to get more people out in rural Nebraska,” Harr said.
The two sides debated for hours last Wednesday even after Groene’s motion to kill the bill failed with a 6-29 vote. It continued past another motion to recommit the bill to committee and finally ended Monday when Stinner’s cloture motion passed with a 33-9 vote.
Any fewer votes would have ended the bill’s discussion and likely made Groene’s filibuster successful. The bill was then got first-round approval with a 31-8 vote.