It could be a tight race in one legislative district, just south of Omaha. Incumbent state senator Paul Lambert and challenger Bill Kintner provided their thoughts and views in forums last week in Louisville and Plattsmouth.
In both forums, taxes in Nebraska were a major topic. At the Louisville forum the question “Why are our taxes so high?” was asked outright from an audience member. The candidates’ responses:
Kintner said, “It starts with our unicameral system of government. You have a club of 49 (state senators) down there. It’s a pretty chummy club. They are all non-partisan. When your buddy comes up and says ‘I just need $3 million for this …and a million over here’—it starts to add up.” Kintner said that in states where there are two houses in the legislature “it’s a lot easier to kill legislation. When you only have one house, it’s a lot tougher to stop it.”
Kintner again used the word “chummy” when describing the relationships of senators with lobbyists. “I’m not even in office yet and I know most of the lobbyists,” he said.
Some of those elected to the legislature say they are going to lower taxes, said Kintner, “but they get down there and they just don’t do it. …We as citizens need to demand that they do something about it.”
Responding to the “chummy club” assertion, Lambert drew laughter from the crowd when he said, “Bill, if you’ve been there on the legislature floor when there have been debates ...chummy club? No.”
Lambert termed the unicameral “a great system.” In defending it, he said, “If you want to go back to the two-house partisan system, I think we just need to look at Washington D.C. to see how gummed up that can get.”
In directing his comments back to the question, Lambert said the tax burden is related to the fact that this is a state with a large area but a small population, and most of the population is concentrated in the (eastern part of the state).
Lambert said “greater efficiency and elimination of duplication” are things he learned while serving as city councilman and mayor that can streamline government and reduce taxes. He cautioned that only “the fat” in the budget should be cut, if you “cut muscle” you are reducing services that people rely on.