Over the past month, I have been traveling and holding town halls across the state to listen to Nebraskans like you and to share an update on the priorities on which my administration has focused over the first seven months. Input from the Second House, the people of Nebraska, helps to shape my policy priorities. These travels have taken me from Falls City to Chadron and Laurel to Ogallala and a number of communities in between. This is part of my administration’s effort to establish a culture of accountability and transparency in state government. Holding town halls lets me hear directly from you about your concerns, hopes, and ideas.
At the town halls, I have heard from Nebraskans on a vast array of issues ranging from taxes and corrections to mental health and infrastructure needs. One issue, however, has stood out from all others. Everywhere I travel, families, ag producers, and business owners say the same thing: property taxes are too high. This year, we took steps to cut the growth of government by about half and delivered over $400 million in property tax relief, an over 45 percent increase over the previous biennium. This is a win for taxpayers, but there is more work to be done. According to the Tax Foundation, Nebraska has the 13th highest property taxes in the nation. I have heard countless accounts of the impact of high property taxes. Nebraskans like Gary in Ord have shared their property tax bills with me, and their taxes have skyrocketed dramatically. In Gary’s case, his taxes went up over 145 percent over eight years on one parcel of land.
At many of the town halls, I heard from citizens concerned about the Legislature’s repeal of the death penalty this past session. Overwhelmingly, Nebraskans want to see capital punishment reinstated and carried out for public safety reasons. Attendees have asked questions about reforms that are happening in the Corrections Department, and I have been able to share with them an update on some of the great progress Director Scott Frakes is making in his agency. Later this fall, Director Frakes will be announcing his strategic plan for the agency as he continues to change the culture of Corrections.
Another common concern I hear at town halls is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) overreach on many fronts including the Waters of the U.S. Rule, the Clean Power Plan, and the Renewable Fuel Standard. The EPA continues to act like an unelected fourth branch of government, and the rules they are legislating through regulation are having a very real impact on the lives of Nebraskans. One woman who attended my Loup City town hall mentioned that the EPA is forcing her to remove a culvert next to her pasture because the culvert in the EPA’s opinion is prohibiting the natural flow of the water through a ditch.
A multitude of important issues were raised at the town halls, and my administration continues to listen to concerns and ideas from people like you. This week I will be holding another town hall in Norfolk. You can find all the details about the town hall by visiting www.governor.nebraska.gov. Be sure to watch this website for updates, and for other public events which my office publishes on a weekly basis. If you are not able to make it to any of the town halls, I hope you will take the time to share your thoughts with me by emailing my office at email@example.com or calling 402-471-2244.