Lincoln, Neb.-- On Thursday, Benjamin Schoenkin of KNOP News 2 went to the State Capitol in Lincoln and had a one-on-one conversation with Senator Mike Groene of North Platte.
Here is a Q and A of their conversation:
Schoenkin: One big topic in Lincoln County is this N-Corpe project and the loss of local tax property revenue. Now Senator Groene, I know there was some action this week at the legislature on this issue...could you tell me a little about what happened?
Sen. Groene: "LB758 by Senator Hughes was on the floor, it was his priority bill, I cosigned because it was specific to basically Lincoln County and Dundy County with Water Augmentation projects by NRD's. It was about taxation, a commitment was made by the NRDs to pay the property taxes, which actually was unconstitutional because government can't pay property taxes because of double taxation. This bill would allow them to pay in lieu of tax, the part I wanted on the bill was because they had voluntarily paid taxes for five years if the TERC Board at the Revenue Department ruled that they shouldn't have been paying those taxes, our local taxing entities in Lincoln County would have to repay those taxes they received which would be a huge hit to our budgets...local budgets...and to the local taxpayer. So it passed the first round and we should be able to get it enacted into law."
Schoenkin: And for people who don't know much about this, why is it important to them that this bill is passed?
Sen. Groene: "Because it's their schools, and their local entities, they don't want to have to come up with more tax dollars."
Schoenkin: I know you are involved in another bill that would allow these Natural Resource Districts to sell the property but maintain the rights to the ground water, could you talk a little bit about that?
Sen. Groene: "Yes, we lost 30 square miles of land to government in Lincoln County and that was taken off the tax rolls, it was taken out of our economic agriculture base, it's a huge burden to the taxpayers to fund the management of it, we are willing to bail the state out...Lincoln County is....with our natural resource, the groundwater, the augmentation project, but they don't need the land, so we need a statute to say that NRD's involved in augmentation projects can reserve the rights to the water and sell the land and that is what my statute does, it's common sense."
Schoenkin: And I know that there is an upcoming hearing on this issue?
Sen. Groene: "The hearing will be February 7, Wednesday, the Natural Resource District, 1:30 in the afternoon. We need a lot of individuals from Lincoln County to come down and share your opinions and your beliefs on the N-Corpe Project with the committee, it would really help."
Schoenkin: Senator Groene...I want to thank you very much for your time.