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Gubernatorial candidate talks property taxes, prison reform

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HARTINGTON — The Three P’s need to be addressed if Nebraska is to be successful, area residents were told here Monday,

Politics, prison reform, and property taxes were the three big keys in Sen. Bob Krist’s 90-minute afternoon talk to area residents.

Krist, who is running for Governor on the Democratic ticket against Republican incumbent Pete Ricketts, visited with residents during two Hartington area campaign stops.

Krist met with about a dozen area residents at the Senior Center Monday afternoon. He then met with voters at the Nissen Winery.

Krist has served in the State Legislature since first being appointed in 2009 by Gov. Dave Heineman.

Nebraska has long had a property tax problem, Krist said, but that problem was moved to crisis status in 2011 when the state stopped allocating most of the funding for schools and local governments to the counties. Those entities were then forced to raise property taxes to pay the bills, he said.

“In 2011, to balance the state budget, we cut all of the county aid money,” he said. “Essentially, everything we legislate on to counties became an unfunded mandate.”

Now that the Great Recession is over, the state needs to start going back to the way it was doing things, and help these entities reduce their reliance on property taxes, he said.

“The property tax system is dysfunctional and it needs to be fixed,” he said.

One way to fix the property tax problem is to make sure local entities are not forced to rely on property taxes so much, Krist said. 

“Twenty percent of the money you put in for property taxes needs to go back to education,” he said, adding that he is not just going to give away money, but expects local entities to cut their reliance on property taxes if the state is helping them out.

“This only works if we get all entities to work together,” he said.

He also suggested looking at the way property taxes are assessed, saying he would like to consider a production model, rather than using the sale of the property as the barometer.

Krist criticized Gov. Pete Ricketts for making it appear he is cutting property taxes.

“He claims property taxes are being helped, but really what he’s done is tapped the Rainy Day Fund,” Krist said. 

Krist said as a member of the Legislature in 2009, he went along with a proposal to tap into the state’s Rainy Day Fund, to help balance the budget.

The fund had about $800 million in it at the time and was depleted down to $300 million. 

As the economy got better, that fund was eventually built back up to $800 million, but Gov. Ricketts continues to tap into it, and it is again down to around $300 million, Krist said. 

The Governor’s claims that he is helping Nebraskans by giving them property tax breaks is just not true, Krist said.

“His family’s business is getting about a $13 million tax break, while the rest of us get an average of about a $25 tax break,” Krist said.

Krist said Gov. Ricketts has been able to get his legislative proposals through the Unicameral because he has helped to elect a very partisan group of Senators to the Unicameral.

“We are losing the non-partisan legislature feel,” Krist said. “We now have a bunch of Ricketts’ crickets.”

Krist said Ricketts has gone out and actively campaigned for and financially helped candidates he feels will more closely follow his agenda.


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