THE NEBRASKA INDEPENDENT
OUR HEVIKOE LAW
Tha Independent Ha an Ain-filjt n to
Suggeet Regarding Mon-I'rodudiv
The constitution of Nebraska pro
"The legislature shall provide such
revenue as may be needful, by levying
a tax by valuation, so that every per
son and corporation shall pay a tax in
proportion to the value of his, her or
its property and franchises, the value
to be ascertained in such manner as
the legislature shall direct." (Sec. 1,
ArL IX., Const, of Neb.)
This, unless it shall be am' tided
in the future, effectually ties the state
down to what is known as the general
property tax. Nothing is exempt the
oretically - except the classes of prop
erty enumerated in section 2, which
need not be mentioned here. In the
ory all property, movable and immov
able, tangible and intangible, re;il and
personal, is subject to taxation in pro
portion to value. In practice a great
deal of movable or intangible prop
erty escapes altogether, and a lare
amount is notoriously under-valued a3
compared to other like property.
The constitution requires taxes to
be levied proportionally and on va1
ues. In other words, an ad valorem
tax. Whether property be taxed on
full value or a fraction of that does
not matter so there is uniformity. In
practice perhaps no property what
ever is assessed at full or fair cm .
value, although the statute requires it.
lint there is a higher law than the
mere enactments of legislatures, and
no amount of penalties and fines and
imprisonment of assessing officers will
ever secure a full compliance of the
law as it now stands or as it may be
amended, so long as the system pre
vails of levying state and county taxes
upon all the property in the state. A
separation is essential to more equit
able taxation, so that land will pay
none but local taxes, and state gov
ernment be maintained by revenues
raised in some other way, say by rail
road taxes, etc.
But we are tied to our present sys
tem for perhaps years to come and
must male the best of it.
The framers of our revenue law
were men (at least there was one of
them) who believed the taxation of
personal property to be a grand farce
but they were obliged to comply with
the constitution. In their endeavors
to make the provisions for assessing
personal property so thorough as to
let nothing escape, they arranged a
Bchedule of some 30 items of person
alty. Experience has shown that seven
of these items ought to be made into
two, and. as to one of the items, the
valuation ascertained in a manner rad
ically different from that which now
The Independent would divide Item
34, "the value of household or office
furniture and property," so that office
furniture and property would stand
as an item by itself. Then six other
items would be consolidated with and
be elapsed as household furniture anr
property. These six items are:
Watches and clocks, sewing and knit
ting machines, piano fortes, melodeons
and organs, gold or silver plate and
plated ware, diamonds and jewelry.
These s-evon items as at present
listed comprise scarcely U2 per cent
of the grand assessment roll, and the
six above enumerated paid less than
i2 of 1 per cent of the taxes in 1900,
as the following table will bear wit
Hess ar?AKr ASSESSMENT ROLL 1900.
Valuation. Per cent.
All property.... $171,747,593 100.00
Watches & clocks 129.833 0.07
Sew. & K. mach. 200,314 0.12
Piano fortes.... 281.000 0.16
G.. S. & P. ware 23,091 0.01
Diamonds & J... 23.078 0.01
Hshld & O. fur.. 1,793.402 1.04
Seven items...? 2,593.970 1.49
yjii tiiu -. v
the state, this would make the aver
age assessment to the family about
$12.90 for the seven classes of prop
ertyan amount so insignificant as to
be absurd, and, if we do not look at
the assessment of real property, gives
good ground for the railroad conten
tion that the roads pay enough taxes.
Now, as was said before, it would
not matter if only there were some
semblance of uniformity in the mani
fest undervaluations but we know
there is scarcely any attempt at uni
fority. Out in one of the school dis
tricts of Lancaster county each farm
household is assessed $5 on house
hold goods.' and although below the
average, yet even the $5 valuation is
excessive when we stop to consider
some household assessments in Lin
coln and Omaha. A poor struggling
professional man in Lincoln pav? taxes
on $40 assessed against about 250 for
household goods. Another Llncolnlte
worth ten thousand dollars pays per
sonal taxes on an assessment of $10.
The trouble is that no assessor can
assess houseLold goods and the other
six classes of property . (unless he is
gifted .with second-sight) with any
hope of even guessing what the prop
erty is worth. To the unpracticed eye
a $15 or $20 rug looks as good as one
that cost $250 or even $500. A solid
gold watch with the finest of works
looks about the same as a Boss filled
case with cheap Swiss works. And
who but an expert can tell a real dia
mond from paste?
The legislature has authority to di
rect the manner by which the value of
different property may be ascertained.
There is no hard and fast rule as to
this. The class of property under con
sideration is unproductive and de
teriorates very fast, as one may learn
by visiting his "uncle" or a second
hard man. The uniformity clause
pertains to proportional taxation on
values after they are ascertained;
but one need not apply the same rules
in valuing a horse that he does in
valuing a painting. Undoubtedly the
legislature can prescribe one method
of ascertaining the value of household
goods, another for railroads, and stii:
another for farm lands. The principal
thing is to ascertain the value in the
best possible manner.
Now, the family living In a $10-a-month
house have as a rule watches
and clocks, sewing machines, organ,
silverware and furniture to correspond.
There may be a good library, but no
musical instrument, or vice versa. But
$10 rent means $10 furnishings.
The family who pay $50 a month
rent will have at least five times the
value of the seven items named
maybe more; but there is no exact
justice in taxation only approximate.
Under the present system the chances
. e that the $50 man will not pay more
than twice as much taxes on his
household goods as does the $10 man
and often no more
Hence, The Independent suggests an
amendment Approximately the value
of household goods in any household
equals twice the annual rental paid
for the house. Let that be the method
of "ascertaining the value." If the oc
cupant is a renter, there will be no
trouble in finding out what be pays.
If he owns his home, it need not be
hard to estimate what it would rent
for a much easier task than valuing
second-hand furniture and plated
The average yearly rental paid (or
saveu) by 200,000 families in Nebras
ka must be between $00 and $75 each,
probably more. Applying our rule,
tbp nnsei'ment would be close to three
million dollars on the seven present
classes named, consolidated as sug
ped. This would be better than at
present both absolutely and relatively,
for the gross inequalities at present
would be better equalized and the
taxing power would lose nothing. -
Railroads and Railways
It is extremely difficult for even a
lawyer to keep track of the wheels
within - wheels of the railroad com
panies in Nebraska. For taxation pur
poses and for exercising eminent do
main, there are about fifteen different
companies in Nebraska known to the
lax man as the Burlington or B. &
But the line from Falls City to Lin
coln is tue A. & N. for some purposes.
That from Nebraska City to Lincoln
the "Nebraska." That from Platts
mouth to Kearney the B. & M. From
Rulo west toward McCook the R. V.
And so on.
All these roads were long ago ab
sorbed by the C. B. & Q. either
"railroad" or "railway" company as
suited the exigencies of the occasion.
Until some months ago the different
lines m Nebraska were operated by
the w., B. & Q. "railroad" company,
owner. How they are operated by the
C, B. & Q. "railway" company, lessee.
Fred Walker, the son of Peter II.
Walker, was killed by an engine at
Waverly last February and being the
support of his aged parents on their
farm near town the father wants $5.
000 damages. The engine was run
ning by itself, forty miles an hour,
when the ordinances limit the speed to
ten, he says, and when his son issued
from behind a long string of corn cribs
onto the track he was struck by an
engine. He had neither been able to
hear or see it, says the father, first
because it sounded no alarm and sec
ond because of the cribs.
The elder Walker sued for damages,
but his attorney got mixed as to
whether the Q is a "railroad" or a
"railway" and the wrong company was
sued as a matter of course, as Walker
afterward discovered. So he now
amends by including both companies.
The Independent is not a "Green
$ 1 6.40
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- LINCOLN, NEBRASKA.
Bag" or "Mercury" or "Legal News,"
but it would suggest to Mr. Walker
that he bring his action also against
the B. & M. company, because it is a
Nebraska corporation and has the
right-of-way. Both brands of the C,
B. & Q. are non-residents and he may
find himself in federal court before
long a very awkward place to fight
a powerful corporation unless his suit
also runs against the Nebraska com
A great deal of free advertising has
been given Harry Lindsay, the re-
I lblican chairman, and he is cracked
up to be the ablest campaign manager
that ever manipulated republican
boodle in Nebraska. The Independent
believes he is greatly over-rated, sim
ply because he has been successful;
for, as Red Apple Jo Johnson says, "It
is easy enough to win when things are
coining your way, but hard to turn the
tide when it's against you." R. B.
Schneider, Orlando Teft, Brad Slaugh
ter and a number of other republican
celebrities, according to The Indepen
dent's ideas, are just as able campaign
managers as the gentleman who cir
culated fac similes of forged passes
and wants to wear the official shoes of
W. S. Summers.
Election night the first 20 or 30 pre
cincts heard from indicated the elec
tion of the entire fusion state ticket,
and before midnight the telephone re
turns said that Chairman Lindsay con
ceded Thompson's election. After
ward he felt foolish about the matter
and had the republican papers deny
that he ever said it. But the evidence
is against him, for the Iowa State
Register the next day printed the
names of the fusion candidates, under
the heading, "Nebraska Results," as
being elected. That information cam.1
through the Associated press from re
publican headquarters a little after 10
o'clock Tuesday night.
Lindsay wanted to appear, very wise
in the matter, but only succeeded in
making an ass of himself.
That Sew Book on
The Big Horn Basin
is off the press and ready for distri
bution. It is a little bit the best publication
descriptive of this wonderful section
of Wyoming yet issued. It gives brief
glimpses of its farms, gardens, cattle
ranches, irrigating canals, oil fields and
a word about the golden opportunities,
illustrated by thirty-one splendid half
tones from photographs. Free to any
address on request.
J. FRANCIS, G. P. A.,
Illinois Central Excursions
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1 Daytona, Fla., $59.10.
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1 Havana, Cuba, $106.70.
1 Jackson, Miss., $38.00.
1 St. Augustine, Fla., $55.40.
2 Mt. Clements, Mich., $34.10.
2 French Lick Springs, Ind., $30.90.
3 Chicago, 111., $14.75.
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