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'I'm not giving up': Senator sees progress on consumption tax proposal

'I'm not giving up': Senator sees progress on consumption tax proposal

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Although he lost a key vote in the Legislature promoting his revolutionary consumption tax reform plan last week, Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard says that loss represented progress with three years left for him to accomplish his goal.

"I thought I had 17 votes," Erdman said Friday during an interview in his Capitol office.

But his motion to advance the bill (LR11CA) from first-round floor consideration snared 23 votes, just two senators shy of being able to nudge the proposal forward in the legislative process.

"And I thought: Wow!" Erdman said.

"We lost the vote, but we made progress," he said.

"I haven't given up, and I'm not giving up."

Initial disappointment in seeing his bill -- which called for a 2022 vote of the people on a proposed constitutional amendment to replace the state's income, corporate, sales and property tax system with a tax on the purchase of services and new goods -- disappear from the legislative agenda soon gave way to a look ahead.

What he needs now, he said, is an assist from the state's rural-centered opponents of the property tax system, which funds schools and local government, to mount a petition drive to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would force the Legislature's hand. 

"We will not get to a consumption tax unless we remove all taxes first," he said. "That has to be accomplished by the voters."

It's happened before, Erdman noted, when voters wiped out the state property tax in 1966, essentially leaving state government with no means of support and prompting the Legislature to enact a new state sales-income tax system.

Erdman said he is determined to accomplish his goal during the remaining three years of his second and final legislative term.

Prior to sitting down for the interview, Erdman said goodbye in his office to Arthur Laffer, the nationally prominent economist who gained fame during the Reagan administration as a member of the president's economic policy advisory board.

Asked who financed Laffer's trip to Lincoln, Erdman said he does not know.

"I'm glad he came," Erdman said. "He has some ideas on how to move this forward. He can be a valuable resource for us. He exceeded my expectations."

The process is off to a good start, Erdman said.

This week's initial vote was "nearly 50 percent, and that is a big deal," he said.

If a proposal could be placed on the ballot in 2022 and approved, he said, it could be enacted in 2023 and implemented in 2024, which would be Erdman's final year in the Legislature.

"We've started the conversation," Erdman said. "And it probably has to be accomplished by the voters."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

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