Gage County officials ask senators to allow the use of sales taxes to pay Beatrice Six
Some senators heard a bill Wednesday that would expand who would pay the millions of dollars owed to the Beatrice Six.
Mistakes made by Gage County law enforcement decades ago are haunting current residents.
Six people were wrongfully convicted of a murder they didn't commit; now the county is paying them back big time.
"We're looking at a bill of about 33 million dollars,” State Senator Myron Dorn, who introduced the bill said.
For years the Gage County Board of Supervisors has been trying to find a way to overrule the settlement, but they're now out of options.
"The Gage County Board of Supervisors expressed disappointment with the recent announcement by the US supreme court that they would not grant a review of the Beatrice Six judgment,” Erich Tiemann, Chairman of the Gage County Board of Supervisors said.
They've turned to the legislature, asking the revenue committee Wednesday afternoon to pass a bill that'd allow Gage County to pass a half–cent sales tax with LB 472.
"It would be used to pay the federal judgment and tax will terminate when paid,” Dorn said.
As is, the entire settlement, legal fees and interest would be paid for through a property tax levy approved last year–it would take about eight years to pay it off.
"My property taxes went up about $7,300 this year and are set to remain that way for eight years until Beatrice Six are paid off,” Art Nietfeld, a farmer in Gage County said.
The sales tax increase would shorten that time by about a year and a half and ease the burden on property owners.
"The sales tax would be a way to collect from a broader range of people,” Tiemann said.
Though not everyone is in favor of spreading the cost among more people.
"Farmers have bad times, the do. So do people in town,” Gary Barnard, a Beatrice resident said.
He fears fewer people would buy homes in Beatrice and businesses would be hurt.
Other opposition says this would be a slippery slope and set the stage for counties to levy sales taxes in other circumstances.
Two other bills could potentially help Gage County.
One would allow the state to help pay the settlement, that’s LB-474.
The other would allow the county to get a low interest loan from the state, that’s LB 473.
To see how the bills progress through the legislature click on this link: https://nebraskalegislature.gov/bills/intro.php