Unicameral leader says sales tax increase measure for Omaha unlikely to happen

Omaha, NE – The Speaker of the Nebraska Legislature says communities probably won't get sales tax increase proposals approved during the coming session.

Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle says a proposed four percent restaurant tax, if approved, would end if the Unicameral allows the city to put a sales tax increase before voters. Omaha's sales tax is currently seven percent: five-and-a-half percent state, and one-point-five percent local.

At Monday's budget forum, Mayor Suttle asked the public to join him in lobbying for a sales tax increase. Senator Mike Flood says the chances of that being approved by the Legislature during the coming session are small. "That's a very unlikely scenario given the fact that the Legislature, as far as I'm concerned at this time, has not had the appetite, myself included, to raise taxes in Nebraska during this economic time," Flood says.

Flood says lawmakers prefer that cities exhaust other options first before asking for a sales tax increase. He says Omaha could still do that by maxing out the property tax levy, although that's not likely to happen either.

State law allows Nebraska cities to impose a one-point-five percent sales tax on top of the state tax. Omaha began doing so in 1978.

A public hearing on Omaha's 2011 budget is next Tuesday.