Another County Blasts Governors Pitch

Another County board speaks out about the governor’s proposal to eliminate Inheritance Tax.

It was no surprise that Cass County Commissioners allotted meeting time to voice their displeasure about possibly losing a significant revenue stream. The Cassgram reports Commissioners said the state is making it tougher on local entities to balance their budgets without layoffs, cuts and/or tax increases, while the governor guises his effort as tax relief.

Among other tax matters in his State of the State Address last month, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman called on the Legislature to repeal the inheritance tax. Currently, Nebraska is one of only eight states with an inheritance tax. He pointed out that Nebraska was recently named in Forbes Magazine as a state where not to die in 2012.

Heineman has testified in favor of LB 970, his $327 million tax relief package that includes the inheritance tax repeal.

County Treasurer Richard Wassinger said that in the last fiscal year 71 heirs paid in a total of $847,000 in inheritance tax in Cass County. In the previous fiscal year, 64 paid in a total of $538,000. Cass County puts that money into a separate fund and then shifts money to the general fund for projects and project loans as needed. Cass County’s Inheritance Tax Fund now has a balance of $4.256 million.

“We are very fortunate we have it a cash reserve” because many counties use inheritance tax as a part of their regular budget, said District 5 Cass County Commissioner Ron Nolte, now a candidate for Nebraska District 2 State Senator.

It’s usually just 1% or 2% of estates that pay the tax, and proper estate planning can eliminate the paying of inheritance tax, said Nolte. It’s generally the wealthier estates that pay the tax and it amounts to very small percentage of the estate, said District 2 Commissioner Janet McCartney. “In many cases, you’ll probably pay the attorney more” for estate planning, said Nolte.

Board Chairman Jim Peterson pointed out the Inheritance Tax Fund has allowed Cass County to go forward with many recent projects: the courthouse re-roofing; the current fire safeguards and lighting project at the courthouse; the three miles of paving on the west end of Church Road; and paying for a portion of the upcoming 18th Street paving.

At times, the county has borrowed from the fund to advance a project rather than waiting for promised funding to arrive. Peterson gave examples of the Church Road project several years ago in which federal funding arrived seven years after the project was completed, and bridges damaged by flooding awaiting FEMA reimbursements.

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