Gubernatorial candidate Sen. Bob Krist and his running mate, Sen. Lynne Walz, visited Husker Harvest Days Tuesday to meet voters and learn more about the latest in agriculture.
Krist said Husker Harvest Days is “a huge combination and collection of agriculture,” and since Nebraska is “all about agriculture,” he and Walz decided to place the event on their campaign agenda.
“We are hearing all over that all of this technology is taking over in agriculture and has for many years,” he said. “All of this is great, but property taxes are killing our farmers and the tariffs are also destroying some of their possibilities. So I am just talking to farmers and ranchers, being around them and finding out what they are talking about and needing. It is very important to us.”
Krist added that in talking with farmers and ranchers at Husker Harvest Days and across the state, their concerns have been about property taxes and how they are being used to fund education.
With property and ag taxes going up by 220 percent or more in some areas of the state, something needs to be done, he said.
In order to solve the problem, Krist said, one has to understand how it started. As a 10-year Nebraska legislator, he saw it start in the 2009, 2010 and 2011 timeframe, when the Legislature voted to remove much of the education funding that came from income taxes. The 20 percent that came from income taxes is now down to less than 3 percent.
“That puts the burden on the local property tax payer and the school boards to make that difference up,” he said. “We reduced special education funding from 80 percent to 50 percent and it is still that way. It needs to be corrected and we need to stop prioritizing the aid to the counties. County aid is an important part of the whole process of reprioritizing the existing money and finding new revenue sources moving forward.”
Krist added other possibilities to solve the property tax issue include an internet sales tax, which he said Gov. Pete Ricketts “pushed back on,” and an additional cash crop of industrial hemp that needs to be explored.
“It is the box. If you think inside the box, you get the same results over and over again. We’ve got to start thinking outside the box again,” he said.
As he toured the Husker Harvest Days site Tuesday, Krist said he was impressed with the amount of technology available to ag producers. However, the state needs to work to make rural broadband a priority to allow farmers to use this technology more effectively.
“Without broadband, we do not have the connectivity that we need to pay for all of these technologies to take off. We need to fix that problem right away,” he said. “I don’t think it is an expensive proposition. I think there are plenty of ways to help build the communities and help the farming and ranch communities catch up with where we need to be in broadband.”
Krist also touched on the news that a Sept. 21 gubernatorial debate has been canceled, calling the cancellation “a travesty.”
“I just wish the governor would be more accommodating with this debate cycle,” he said. “We have always said that we will go any place and debate him any time. The point of a debate is to get that information disseminated. My campaign had an offer from C-SPAN to televise that debate. Our challenge to the governor is for us to debate so the people of Nebraska can see the differences.”