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 Don Blankenau, an attorney who represents N-Corpe.
Here is a Q and A of their conversation:
Schoenkin: One big debate in Lincoln County is this N-Corpe project and local property tax revenue. Now I am here with Don Blankenau, an attorney who specializes in water law and represents the N-Corpe Project. Can you tell me a little about your thoughts about what's going on here at the legislature on this issue?
Blankenau: "Sure there are two bills that are important both to N-Corpe and Lincoln County, one is LB758 which allows for an in lieu of property tax payment by N-Corpe, the other is 1123 which attempts to create an environment for the sale of that property while still retaining the right to pump the large quantities of water that are required."
Schoenkin: Can you tell me a little about the issues that you see with selling that land but maintaining the groundwater rights?
Blankenau: "Sure this is a real gray area of Nebraska Law, traditionally the amount of water you can pump is proportional to the amount of land you actually own because N-Corpe needs to pump large volumes of water, it needs to own a lot of land. LB1123 attempts to allow for lesser land ownership and still access that amount of water. It's unclear though whether the bill as presently structured would allow that to happen."
Schoenkin: And then regarding the other bill and this issue that is being brought up in hearings on occasion about double taxation, if you could mention a little bit about that?
Blankenau: "Sure, I don't think it's truly a double taxation issue, what it is that under Nebraska's Constitution public bodies are exempt from the payment of property taxes so N-Corpe is actually constitutionally prohibited from making that payment, but N-Corpe devised this legislation...LB758 to allow for a voluntary in lieu of property tax payment."
Schoenkin: And then is there anything you want to say to the people of Lincoln County who may have a different view on this?
Blankenau: "Sure and of course everyone has different views but I think it is important to recognize that N-Corpe has stepped up to create legislation that would allow for that in lieu of property tax payment in line with the constitution, plus the property much of it is going to be open to the public so there is a local recreational aspect to it as well."