Linehan, 050619 NEAGO, AGO 19-7

Docket Nº:AGO 19-7
Case Date:May 06, 2019
Senator Lou Ann Linehan
AGO 19-7
No. 19-007
Nebraska Attorney General Opinion
State of Nebraska office of the Attorney General
May 6, 2019
         SUBJECT: Constitutionality of Reducing the Percentage of the Actual Value of Agricultural and Horticultural Land Used in Calculating State Aid Value Under the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act          REQUESTED BY: Senator Lou Ann Linehan Senator Mark Kolterman Senator Mike Groene Nebraska State Legislature          WRITTEN BY: Douglas J. Peterson, Attorney General, Lynn A. Melson, Assistant Attorney General          INTRODUCTION          You are considering legislation that would reduce the percentage of the actual value of agricultural and horticultural land used in determining state aid value under the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act ["TEEOSA"]. Neb. Rev. Stat. §§79-1001 to 79-1033 (2014 and Cum. Supp. 2018). Specifically, this potential legislation would amend Neb. Rev. Stat. § 79-1016(3) (Cum. Supp. 2018). You request our opinion on the following three constitutional issues:
1. Does a reduction in adjusted value for agricultural and horticultural property within the TEEOSA formula violate the uniformity requirements of Neb. Const, art. VIII, §1?
2. Does the reduction described herein violate Due Process or Equal Protection under Neb. Const, art. I, § 3?
3. Does the reduction described herein violate Due Process or Equal Protection under the Constitution of the United States?
         ANALYSIS          I. Uniformity Clause          Your first question is whether the proposed amendment to the TEEOSA formula would violate the "uniformity clause" of our State Constitution. Neb. Const, art. VIII, § 1(1) provides: "Taxes shall be levied by valuation uniformly and proportionately upon all real property and franchises . . . except as otherwise provided in or permitted by this Constitution; . . . ." Neb. Const, art. VIII, § 1(4) authorizes the Legislature to provide that agricultural land and horticultural land constitute a separate class of property for purposes of taxation. In addition, "the Legislature may prescribe standards and methods for the determination of the value of real property at uniform and proportionate values." Neb. Const, art. VIII, §1(6).          "The object of the uniformity clause is accomplished 'if all of the property within the taxing jurisdiction is assessed and taxed at a uniform standard of value.'" Constructors, Inc. v. Cass County Bd. of Equal., 258 Neb. 866, 873, 606 N.W.2d 786, 792 (2000) (quoting County of Gage v. State Bd. of Equal., 185 Neb. 749, 755, 178 N.W.2d 759, 764 (1970)). "The rule of uniformity applies to both the rate of taxation and the valuation of property for tax-raising purposes." Grainger Bros. Co. v. Lancaster Cty. Bd. of Equal., 180 Neb. 571, 574, 144 N.W.2d 161, 164 (1966), The legislation which you are considering would not change the rate of taxation or the valuation of property for "tax-raising purposes." Rather, it would amend Neb. Rev. Stat. § 79-1016(3), which is part of the statutory formula used in calculating state aid to schools.          TEEOSA was enacted in 1990 to both equalize school funding and provide property tax relief, in part, through use of a formula for the distribution of state aid to public schools. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 79-1002 (2014). That formula takes into consideration both the needs of local systems and school districts and the resources available to those local systems and school districts. In determining the resources available, TEEOSA requires the Property Tax Administrator to "compute and certify to the State Department of Education the adjusted valuation for the current assessment year for each class of property in each school district and each local system." Neb. Rev. Stat. § 79-1016(2) (Cum. Supp. 2018). "The adjusted valuation of property of...

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