With a primary election victory behind him, state Sen. Bob Krist, the Democratic nominee for Nebraska governor, made an appearance at Grand Island’s airport Wednesday.
Krist is piloting an aircraft across the state, making campaign stops. He is an Air Force veteran who flew more than 100 combat sorties during his 21-year military career.
His mission Wednesday was to visit towns across the state and talk about property tax reform and other issues facing Nebraska.
“Property tax is the message of today,” said Dan Parsons, Krist’s communications director.
Krist said property taxes across the state are increasing, and Gov. Pete Ricketts, his Republican opponent, hasn’t solved the problem. His next stop was to be in Bridgeport in Morrill County, where property taxes have increased more than 140 percent during the past 10 years, while household income has increased by 20 percent.
During his Grand Island stop, he said state government needs to rebalance the tax process across Nebraska, and the way to do it is for Republicans and Democrats to work together.
Al Davis, a Republican and former state senator, was at the event, supporting the campaign.
Davis read comments from Sens. Steve Erdman of Bayard and Mike Groene of North Platte that accused Ricketts of dropping the ball on property taxes.
Nebraska’s Legislature is supposed to be nonpartisan, Krist said, but there has been a rise in partisanship to the point that discussion on reform efforts has been blocked.
Krist’s running-mate for lieutenant governor, Sen. Lynne Walz, said 20 percent of the revenue from income taxes used to go to education, but now, with income tax cuts, that number is about 3 percent.
Walz said the next four years are critical to the future of Nebraska.
Krist said farmers and ranchers in Nebraska have the highest property tax rates per capita in the country, while homeowners rank at No. 7.
With cuts in income taxes and increases in property taxes, he said, state taxes have become unbalanced, and it’s affecting schools because local governments have to raise property taxes for funding.
Krist said other important issues are general education funding, funding for higher education and corrections problems, as the ACLU is suing Nebraska over prison overcrowding issues.
Ultimately, he said, there’s an issue with the separation of powers in Nebraska government because Ricketts’ campaigning for or donating money to campaigns of potential allies has resulted in a lot of senators voting along party lines.
“The partisanship is starting to go up,” Krist said.
His tour Wednesday took him from Omaha to Sioux City, Iowa, then to Grand Island, Bridgeport and Scottsbluff. On Thursday he’ll be in Falls City, Nebraska City and Plattsmouth. On Friday, Krist will be in Fremont and Wayne.
Next week, Krist said he’ll be in Winnebago to visit with the Winnebago tribe.
Krist won the Democratic nomination over two opponents Tuesday night with 53,777 votes. He won 59.9 percent of the total Democratic vote.
Ricketts won the Republican nomination over one opponent with 137,144 votes. He won 81.4 percent of the total Republican vote.