Candidate responses are posted exactly as we received them and have not been edited.
Question 1: What makes you the best candidate?
Mike Groene: I represent the citizens not the Lobby or special interest and I am NOT doing this for personal gain, I look at seeking public office as being a public service.
Judy Pederson: A proven track record to work for Lincoln County and get results. I come from a small-business background. I own Pro-Printing graphics in North Platte. Every day, we come across challenges in small-business. We don’t bicker, complain, or make excuses. We find solutions that work best. This is the same approach I brought to my time on the North Platte City Council, and the same approach I would bring to the state legislature.
Question 2: What would be the first thing you do once elected?
Groene: Continue as I am now doing, working on the complicated legislation needed to address property taxes through school funding.
Pederson: With 2019 being a budget year, the first thing I would do is evaluate the forecasted revenue report to determine the projection of tax collections and state revenue. This report will be the impetus for the kinds of decisions and solutions that would need to be developed with the budget. Then I would set up meetings with state economists and my colleagues to determine how we can collaborate to adequately fund state government and our K-12 school system while finding fundamental changes to our property tax system and address our declining rural economy and population decrease.
Question 3: What issues do you think will be the biggest challenge in the next four years?
Groene: Property taxes, The Budget, School discipline/ teacher and student safety
Pederson: 1) A diminishing rural economy. Those working in our agriculture industry are struggling. Low commodity prices and high farmland property taxes have reduced the profit margins for Nebraska’s farmers.
2) Overcrowded Prison System. We have to address our prison system immediately. 157.5 percent over capacity as of June, making it the second most overcrowded prison system in the nation. This is a public safety as well as a public health concern.
3) Workforce Development. We have to start addressing our workforce housing and workforce development obstacles If we want to grow our tax base and keep small-businesses and our rural economy thriving.
Question 4: How do lawmakers find property tax relief?
Groene: By slowing down government spending at the local level, by eliminating mandates, and sending a strong message to local governments, that it's time.
State needs to fund a bigger share of public schools
Pederson: I think the property tax relief conversation needs to start with the understanding of the wholistic approach that is needed. You can’t cut property taxes without creating a strain on other areas of state government as a result. Every state agency and component of state government catenates upon one another. If we are going to provide long-term, sustainable property tax relief (and not just talk about it) we have to evaluate our spending at the state level, the TEEOSA state aid formula, and how we retain more Nebraskans in rural Nebraska, as well as grow Nebraska businesses through workforce development. I also think we can evaluate online sales tax exemptions as one option to start developing a long term, sustainable plan.
Question 5: What are your funding priorities?
Groene: WE adequately fund all of government. we need to slow the growth down and stop expanding government into our private lives.
Pederson: Making sure K-12 schools are adequately funded, adequately funding state government, and finding property tax relief to start improving our rural Nebraska economies.
Question 6: How will you plan and fund state growth?
Groene: If the state grows it should fund itself.
Our first problem is keeping hard working Nebraskans from leaving due to burdensome taxes.we are the third highest taxed people in the Nation, we can not continue to be so.
Pederson: I am a member of the Nebraska Commission on Housing and Homelessness. We supported Senator William’s bill to expand Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for housing. I believe TIF is a tool that is being used effectively in other communities to promote growth and our State will benefit from the expanded use to address the state-wide housing shortage. I will continue to support the use of TIF for housing as well as looking for additional opportunities to meet the housing needs. I believe through utilizing existing tools such as the Nebraska Advantage Act and its upcoming replacement, as well as TIF we can attract more business and industry into Nebraska. But additional housing will be critical to successfully attracting business and industry.
Question 7: How do lawmakers address prison overcrowding?
Groene: We have done so already with legislation , with probation changes, lessening sentences for felonies and adding cells. We must give the new legislation I helped pass take full effect, before we throw more money at the situation.
Pederson: States such as Georgia have implemented programs that have decreased recidivism by 35%. I think that Nebraska needs to look at the examples of other states and other countries to get those individuals who have committed offenses that have caused their incarceration back to work when they leave the prison system. Without the ability to get a good job and adequate housing they are much more likely to re-offend.
Question 8: How do lawmakers address prison funding?
Groene: see above
Pederson: The need for additional prison funding will be resolved with lowering the need for additional beds.