Sales Tax Bill Passes, For Paying “Beatrice Six” Judgment

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A bill that would let a rural Nebraska county raise its sales tax to pay off a $28.1 million legal debt has won final approval from lawmakers.

Lawmakers passed the measure Wednesday on a 43-6 vote despite objections that it would let Gage County supervisors impose the tax without getting voter approval.

The bill lets a two-thirds majority of the county board approve a half-cent sales tax increase, which could only be used to pay the six people wrongfully convicted in a 1985 Beatrice murder.  Once the judgment is paid, the tax would expire.  The county would have to tax to the maximum level of its property tax limit, while the judgment is being paid.  Adams Lawmaker Myron Dorn, the sponsor of LB 472, says he expects opposition from Governor Pete Ricketts.

:20                  “for a vote”

Dorn says a lot of state senators understand the difficulty Gage County is facing.

:28                  “that judgment, off”

The Beatrice Six spent years in prison for the death of 68-year-old Helen Wilson until DNA evidence exonerated them in 2008.

The bill is designed to help farmers who are a minority in the county but pay most of the property taxes.  Using only property tax, it was expected to take about eight years to pay the judgment. With a half-cent sales tax, officials say that could shorten the period by about two years.

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