FAIRBURY, NE – State-senate elect Tom Brandt of Plymouth has had three key issues on his mind since his campaign began.
Lower property taxes, fairness in K-12 education funding and improved rural broadband.
Brandt’s focus on these issues helped him defeat the incumbent, libertarian Laura Ebke of Crete, by a sound margin of 56-44 percent in the mid-term election on Nov. 8.
Since then, Brandt’s travels around Legislative District 32 have continued. The district includes Jefferson, Saline, Thayer, Fillmore and a southwest portion of Lancaster County.
“Every day, we meet with somebody,” Brandt said. “It could be the Thayer County Commissioners, the Geneva Volunteer Fire Department, the mayor of Crete. I probably attend 6-7 meetings a week just with constituents of some group or another.”
Brandt spoke with the Jefferson County Commissioners during their weekly meeting at the courthouse in Fairbury on Tuesday morning.
Brandt, along with 10 other freshmen senators, will be sworn it at the State Capitol building in Lincoln on Jan. 9 at 10:15 a.m. That will begin the first of a 90-day legislative session, where Brandt hopes to advocate for his three key issues.
“In Nebraska, we need to look at a tax shift,” Brandt said. “Not necessarily a tax increase. Nebraska leads the nation in sales tax exemptions. It’s time we review some of those things to see if they’re still viable.”
Brandt says he’s interested in co-sponsoring a bill that could lower property taxes by $670 million, creating a revenue stream to finance K-12 education.
Brandt estimates that roughly two-thirds of property taxes go toward school funding in Nebraska. There are 178, K-12 schools that receive “no equalization,” according to the Republican senate-elect.
Out of 13 schools in the 32nd legislative district, 12 of them get no equalization. Crete Public is the one exception.
“Talking to the urban senators, they even see the unfairness in that,” Brandt said. ” Last session, senator (Tom) Briese introduced a bill that had revenue streams attached to it.”
Back in February, Briese, a Republican representing District 41, introduced a education funding/property tax relief bill, LB 1084, to the Revenue Committee.
According to Briese’s website, “LB 1084 will provide immediate and substantial property tax relief, specify funding sources for that relief, reaffirm our commitment to funding education, provide soft property tax asking caps to help ensure lasting property tax relief, and it will call for a comprehensive study of K-12 funding in Nebraska.”
That bill ended up in Speaker Hold at the end of the last session, because it didn’t have 33 votes to end a filibuster.
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @Tommy_NCN.