You can’t have it both ways. Our parents told us that. We learned it from sometimes-painful experience. Yet, we often forget and think maybe this time it will be different.
The 2018 Legislature is back at work and the Governor is saying that he wants to provide meaningful tax relief for all Nebraskans while closing a $200 million gap in the state budget. Pardon me while I ask, again, what is the largest source of state revenue? Taxes? Do you see my confusion here?
Perhaps there is a magic pill. Maybe a magic wand that is yet to be waved. Or maybe it’s just the Kansas way, keep cutting the budget until it hurts really bad. With his own tax plan trapped by a legislative filibuster last session – and still awaiting floor action –Governor Pete Ricketts said he’ll be pushing for a revised version of that tax reduction package that would combine corporate and personal income tax cuts with reductions in the valuation of ag land for local property tax purposes.
Some state senators, frustrated by last year’s less than successful effort, are sponsoring a bill to provide an estimated $1.1 billion in annual property tax relief by reducing the local school property tax load by up to 50 percent. If that fails, they are mounting a petition drive to put the question to voters in November.
Ricketts has raised a warning flag about that, noting the cuts that would have to be made to cover the $1.1 billion reduction. But proponent Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard said state budget reductions could be accompanied by elimination of some sales tax exemptions. Erdman has suggested that state budget reductions could potentially be accompanied by elimination of some exemptions to the state sales tax as a dual means of supplying revenue needed to help fill the gap in tax support for schools.
The Governor doesn’t like the potential option of attempting to increase revenue without hiking tax rates, a pathway that could be opened by elimination of some sales tax exemptions or business tax incentives. He said Nebraska is already a high-tax state. His option? Creating an environment that will cut red tape and create more job opportunities while controlling spending.
In his New Year’s message to the state – it was a press release that you may have seen – the Governor said, “In good times and in bad, Nebraskans work together to get things done and move our state forward. When we see a need, we go out and meet that need.”
That sounds like teamwork. Here’s hoping that spirit will prevail in the weeks ahead because the tax and budget concerns, while the biggest the state faces, aren’t all the problems that need to be addressed.
Ricketts said he has been in extensive negotiations with tax reduction proponents along with Revenue Committee Chairman Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion. But he has vowed to work with all senators on the priorities Nebraskans want.
He spoke of the teamwork experienced in the 2017 session and said, “Working together, we can accomplish great things.” Remember, this is an election year and half of the legislative seats (the even-numbered districts) and the governor are on the ballot.
Let’s hope that enough senators are on board with Ricketts’ teamwork idea to make good things happen, without giving away the farm.
------ J.L. Schmidt has been covering Nebraska government and politics since 1979. He has been a registered independent for 17 years. Contact him at:
Nebraska Press Association
845 S Street
Lincoln NE 68508
The most important person . . .
Richard Kimbrough, Retired author, Crete, Neb.
Les Moore who moved to Condon Springs from Iowa in 1993 and quickly became a Cornhusker fan came into Goat and Gloria’s after being in Lincoln for the Scott Frost unveiling. The Buzzards were having coffee so they invited Les to sit down and tell them about that.
Les started by saying, “Well, Coach Frost is the most important person I’ve ever met.”
Gart Swanson interrupted, doubt in his tone. “You met him?” To which Tony Flagg added, the same doubt present, “The most important person you’ve ever met?”
Les had a good answer. “To Nebraskans right now he’s the most important person, that’s for sure.”
All of which led to a Buzzard discussion of who was the most important person each had ever met, wives and girlfriends excluded.
Miller Yates said the most important person he had ever seen was FDR. When the President’s campaign train stopped for ten minutes in North Platte in 1936 when Miller was five, he sat atop his dad’s shoulders and saw Roosevelt on the back of the caboose.
Aaron Ware who has attended two United States Open golf tournaments and is far and away Condon Springs best golfer said he met and spoke with Arnold Palmer in the 1966 Open held at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. While standing along a fairway Aaron watched Palmer’s drive land and stop not more than twenty yards from him. When the Great One approached to hit his second shot Aaron asked, “How far did you hit that one, Arnie?” to which Arnie replied, “I haven’t the least idea.” That meeting and the subsequent conversation had been very big in Aaron’s mind.
Well, the Buzzards felt Aaron’s story interesting, but lacked much depth. A meeting needed more than two sentences, one asked, one replied to. Archie Donald then told of meeting Nixon when the future President campaigned for Eisenhower for President and himself for Vice President in Kearney in 1952. After his speech Nixon asked if anyone was present who had husbands or sons fighting in Korea. Archie’s mother did, Archie’s father Art. She was holding Archie who was four months old at the time. Nixon came over to shake hands with Archie’s mom. After the handshake he goo-googled Archie’s chin with his forefinger whereupon Archie threw up on his coat.
Archie argued that Nixon was clearly an important person in American history, and that by throwing up on him, he, Archie, had met him. No question about that.
Joe Mora, the oldest Buzzard present that morning, a big country music fan, recounted how he had met Roy Acuff one evening in the halls of Opryland. He and the singer of the Wabash Cannonball, Joe’s favorite song, talked for ten minutes, mostly about Grandpa Jones who ranked right up there with Roy as Joe’s idols.
The Buzzards unanimously agreed that Roy Acuff truly was an important person, perhaps even more important than FDR or Nixon and a tad ahead of Arnie Palmer even, and that ten minutes talking to Roy was world class without question. They were all for given Joe the best “met important person” honor.
That is until Noah A. Gomeyer, twin son (with Noah B. Gomeyer) of the founder of the Gomeyer Repenteds, told about driving to church a couple of nights before when the temperature was twenty below, and he saw a car stopped along the gravel road seven miles from town. And about a mile farther up the road there was this young woman walking. Not appropriately dressed for the cold, she would have collapsed and frozen to death save for Noah A. coming along and picking her up and taking her to town.
Noah A. concluded, “That girl was the most important person I ever met, and I’ve thanked the Lord so much for giving me the opportunity to save her life.”
The Buzzards agreed, hands down Noah had won the gold medal, even beating out Joe Mora meeting Roy Acuff.
Retired author Richard Kimbrough taught in K-12 schools and universities for fifty-seven years, the last twenty-four at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "Neighbors" is an offshoot of Kimbrough’s latest book "Reunion" based on the two or three events that change the lives of everyone. "Reunion" is available from Amazon Books. The author's proceeds from the sale of "Reunion" will be donated to Tabitha Hospice in honor of his late wife Beverly Kimbrough.
Pete Ricketts, Nebraska Governor
Nebraska’s Blue Ribbon Schools
A quality education is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give any child. Perhaps Martin Luther King, Jr. put it best in 1947: “The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
As Governor, I have worked to spotlight outstanding examples of educators and schools that are helping deliver the quality education students need to succeed. Earlier this year, I visited schools to honor teachers helping improve student achievement and celebrate National Teacher Day. My Department of Economic Development and I have partnered with school districts across the state to provide quality programming exposing middle school students to opportunities in manufacturing and information technology fields. Additionally, I’ve worked to support initiatives in the Legislature that aim to improve student achievement.
This week, we are honoring Nebraska’s Blue Ribbon schools which are helping students achieve a high level of academic excellence. Each year, the U.S. Department of Education honors schools nationwide for their commitment to excellence with their highly-selective Blue Ribbon award. In 2017, four Nebraska schools received the Blue Ribbon award. Nebraska’s 2017 Blue Ribbon schools are: Calvert Elementary in Auburn, Dundee Elementary and Paddock Road Elementary in Omaha, and Pender Elementary. These schools represent the very best of Nebraska’s education system. They instill both intelligence and character in their students and set them up for future success.
How does a school earn a Blue Ribbon? There are two different paths. First, a school can demonstrate significant progress in student achievement for at least three consecutive years. Many of these schools also have a student body in which at least 40 percent of students are disadvantaged in some way. Second, a school can be either in the top 15 percent of all schools in both reading and mathematics, or they must show significant gains in closing the achievement gap among student subgroups.
This year, all four of Nebraska’s Blue Ribbon schools received their distinctions for falling in the second category, which means they are in the top 15 percent of all schools in reading and mathematics.
These schools did not earn their distinction by accident – it came through hard work, dedication, and teamwork. For example, Paddock Road Elementary in Westside Community Schools in Omaha achieves its high standards through innovative practices. Teachers utilize I/E (intervention and enrichment) time to help their students develop projects around their areas of interest. Paddock Road has also developed a strategic plan to help measure their progress against goals they’ve set as a team. All of their certified staff are engaged in the process of developing this plan and common vision for their school.
Pender Elementary in Thurston County offers a multi-tiered system of support for students with additional needs. Pender Elementary connects students to mentors through their TeamMates program. The school district also operates a Beyond the Bell afterschool program for students at no additional charge. Students who attend can receive help with homework and have access to additional programming. The area faith community has also teamed up with the school to create backpacks of food each weekend for students from families in need. Programs like these that leverage community support ensure that Pender Elementary’s students can focus on their work in the classroom and excel.
These are just a couple examples of the great work going on in Nebraska’s Blue Ribbon schools. These schools are setting the standard for other teams of students, parents, teachers, and administrators.
------ Pete Ricketts is Governor of Nebraska.
He can be contacted at:
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 94848
Lincoln, NE. 68509-4848