State senator wants churches to pay property taxes

By: Hannah Paczkowski

Tension ran high at the State Capitol as Sen. Ernie Chambers discussed his bill with the Legislature's Revenue Committee.

“We can banter, but we ought to do it on the floor of the legislature,” Chambers said.

“Well, senator, you came before the Revenue Committee today and as a member of the Revenue Committee I'm asking questions about your legislature,” Sen. Beau McCoy said.

“That's fine we can take all the time you want to take,” Chambers said.

The bill would eliminate a state property-tax exemption for religious organizations. Chambers said he wants the church to start paying taxes just like everyone else.

Right now in Nebraska, properties owned by educational, religious and cemetery organizations are exempt from property taxes.

In his bill, Chambers crosses out the word “religious”.

Ultimately, Chambers said the bill will help the state gain more revenue by taking away churches' tax exemptions.

A member of the Nebraska Catholic Conference said the bill should be killed.

“In terminating this policy, this bill would shatter a public trust, pursue it to which in recognition of and respect for the many ways that non–profit religious organizations use their property to serve the common good,” Executive Director Jim Cunningham said.

Chambers argued that churches should want to have to pay property taxes.

“He laid down the law for His followers: Pay your taxes. If those street lights are not functioning, I'm sure that those religious people will not say to God 'Thine is the kingdom and the power therefore send some power down and turn these lights on,” Chambers said.

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