In Gary v. Nebraska Dept of Natural Resources, this firm successfully argued that the real property tax mandated by LB-701 was unconstitutional because complying with the three state Compact between Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado about the Republican River was a state purpose. Unfortunately the Supreme Court did not agree that the occupation tax authorized by that legislation should be similarly held unconstitutional in its opinion in Kiplinger v. Nebraska Dep’t of Natural Resources issued on Friday, September 16, 2011. The Omaha World Herald’s report on this decision contained this telling quote,” “If we couldn’t use this, I think the only other option was general fund dollars, and no one would like that,” said State Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege, a key legislator on water issues.”
Frankly the 88 landowners that brought the Kiplinger lawsuit would probably like it very much if general funds were used to comply with the compact. The point of the lawsuit was to get the state as a whole to pay attention to the water issues in the Republican River basin. The dollars generated by agriculture in the basin are vital to our state’s economy. If the state does not comply with the compact, general fund dollars will be used to pay Kansas damages. The landowners in the area are crying out for state wide sensible policies, instead of the current system that allows the 3 NRDs with competing interests to set the water allocations in the districts each year. If the state took a larger role in funding and regulating water use in the basin, the state as a whole could only benefit.