Online sales tax gets mixed react from candidates for governor

June 21, 2018, 5:01 a.m. ·


Listen To This Story

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said his administration is “analyzing” Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision about online sales taxes. Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Krist, running against Ricketts for governor, faulted him for the state’s not being prepared.

Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision could have big implications for Nebraska’s state budget. When the Legislature debated online sales taxes this spring, estimates ranged from $30 to $95 million a year for how much more would be collected. Nebraskans who purchase items online already legally owe the tax; but payment depends on self-reporting; a 2012 Department of Revenue study estimated Nebraskans paid about 2 percent of what they actually owed that year.

Thurday’s decision also drew a mixed reaction from Nebraska’s two gubernatorial candidates. Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, has until now opposed legislation to have the state require out-of-state online retailers to collect the tax, saying it was unconstitutional until the Supreme Court or Congress decided otherwise. Sen. Bob Krist, the Democratic candidate for governor, said Ricketts’ actions delayed the state from getting needed revenue.

Krist himself wound up opposing an online sales tax bill this year. He said that was because it had been watered down at the governor’s urging. “If the governor had not asked for it to be amended and the Department of Revenue would have acted upon the original bill we would be ready to start collecting internet sales tax,” Krist said.

For a story on this year's defeat of online sales tax legislation, click here.

For background on the issue, click here.

Krist said if he were governor, he would urge the Legislature to pass a bill requiring online retailers start collecting the tax right away.

Ricketts was not immediately available to respond to Krist’s criticism. But campaign spokesman Matthew Trail said Krist was running away from his record of having opposed the governor on property tax relief. In a press release, Ricketts didn’t take any position on future legislation. But he said “Any increased revenue attributable to total enforcement of our sales tax laws must be steered toward property tax relief.”

Sen. Jim Smith, outgoing chairman of the Revenue Committee, predicted there will be an increase in the number of companies voluntarily collecting the tax, adding it would be up to the Legislature next year to decide about further action.