Omaha Mayor: cities need option to raise sales taxes

Omaha, NE – Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle says the city stands to lose six million dollars once two bills passed by the Unicameral become law.

Lawmakers approved legislation eliminating state aid to cities, counties, and natural resource districts. Earlier this week, the Unicameral also gave final approval to a bill prohibiting Omaha from implementing a commuter wheel tax on non-residents.

Omaha stands to lose nearly three-million dollars when the commuter wheel tax bill is signed in to law. Mayor Suttle says the wheel tax money was earmarked for repairing Omaha's streets. "We're only two months in to our 2011 budget process, so we will manage ourselves and then see what we need to do, but right now those dollars are earmarked toward asphalt lay-down, and we'll probably have to cut that program in half."

Suttle testified Wednesday before a Legislative Committee in favor of allowing cities to raise their sales tax one-half cent if voters approve it. Right now Omaha's sales tax is seven percent---five and half percent state, and one and a half percent local. Suttle says raising Omaha's sales tax a half-cent would bring in 43 million dollars in revenue. But he says the option to raise the sales tax would be used as a last resort.

Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha has sponsored a bill this session allowing cities to raise their local option sales taxes if voters approve it.