Update: This transcript has been updated to reflect current AP Stylebook guidelines.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: You’re listening to “KZUM News” on 89.3 KZUM Lincoln and KZUM HD.
[Fades in on the “KZUM News” program music, an original production of Jack Rodenburg. The music fades out.]
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Good afternoon and welcome to today’s edition of “KZUM News,” an hour dedicated to learning more about what is going on in Lincoln and the surrounding areas. I am the News Director, and your host, Amantha Dickman.
As I promised last week, we are beginning our election coverage in preparation for November 8. That general election is quickly approaching and we want to make sure that you have as much information about that ballot before you step into the voting box.
But before we start talking politics, we can’t forget our relatively breaking news. Especially since I know several of you have been waiting to learn more about the challenge that was filed against the Biden Administration’s student loan forgiveness program.
On Thursday, September 29, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson announced that Nebraska is one of six states to file a challenge to the Biden Administration’s student loan cancellation program in federal court in Missouri. Also joining Missouri in the challenge is Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, and South Carolina.
The challenge has asked the court for an immediate temporary restraining order pausing the program, citing that they are searching for prompt relief because the Biden Administration has indicated it will start canceling loan balances as early as next week. And I would like to take a moment to clarify that statement when released, referred to this week.
In a press release from Attorney General Doug Peterson’s offices, he states that, quote “in addition to being economically unwise and inherently unfair, the Biden Administration’s Mass Debt Cancellation is another example in a long line of unlawful regulatory actions.” end quote.
While we wait to see how this challenge unfolds, we will continue to provide you with updates on the status of the student loan forgiveness program and the court decision to this case in Missouri.
Now let’s move on.
So, to kick off our election content, we are sitting down with the Nebraska gubernatorial candidates. As many of you probably remember, Governor Pete Ricketts has reached his term limit and cannot seek reelection. After several people threw their hats into the ring during the primaries, we have three candidates remaining; Jim Pillen, Carol Blood, and Scott Zimmerman.
The first of those listed candidates is Jim Pillen, representing the republican party.
Now, unfortunately, Mr. Pillen’s campaign told the Nebraska Examiner in August that he would not be participating in any debates. And the link to that article will be in today’s transcript for anyone who wishes to see his statement from August. We did speak to his campaign and they declined to sit down with us as well. So we will also be including links to his campaign website to ensure Mr. Pillen is represented as fairly as possible without an interview.
Additionally, I want to do a quick overview of his website so that voters at least have a general idea of where he stands on the political spectrum.
One of his website’s first listed issues states that Mr. Pillen is committed to K-12 education in Nebraska. Under this pillar, he has outlined his opposition to the teaching of critical race theory, the 1619 project, and the LB768 bill, which asks for the adoption of health-education standards for the Nebraska education system.
Next on the issues docket, his website notes that Mr. Pillen is pro-life and that he plans to ‘advance a culture of life and protect the unborn.’ He expands on this thought by stating that he opposes taxpayer money funding organizations that commit abortions and supports adoption options for families in crisis.
Mr. Pillen also has infrastructure and property taxes listed as some of his top priorities, according to his campaign website. While we won’t get a look at his plan to address these subjects before the general election, he does simply say that he wants to expand broadband access to every corner of our state and that he plans to lower property taxes.
Lastly, Mr. Pillen is a strong supporter of the second amendment and opposes ‘red-flag laws.’
While Mr. Pillen does have other issues listed on his website, they tend to be sentiments of what he believes in and the website does not share any details on how he plans to address those subjects. For that reason, I’m not going to go through them. I don’t want to put words in Mr. Pillen’s mouth. And, perhaps, in the future, he will sit down with us and clarify his plans himself.
Now, the second gubernatorial candidate that we mentioned earlier is Carol Blood. She is currently serving as Senator to District 3 in the Nebraska Legislature and won her place on the Democratic ticket last May over her opponent, Roy Harris. Senator Blood is here in the studio with us to talk about her platform.
Hello, Senator Blood. How are you doing?
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: I am well, thank you. Thanks for having me today.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. And thank you for joining us.
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: My pleasure.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Now, obviously, you’re the governor candidate who was elected for the Democratic side here in Nebraska. Can you tell me a little bit about your history in politics and what pushed you to become the governor candidate?
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: Yeah, absolutely.
So, to be really honest, I’ve known since fourth grade that I wanted to be a Nebraska State Senator. That’s when we do the tour of the capital. And, on that day, I swore that one day I would be a state senator. In fact, somewhere in the universe, there’s a junior high newsletter that says, “What do you wanna be when you grow up?”
And I said, “I wanna be a Nebraska State senator.”
Now, that was before I knew they made $12,000 a year, but it’s too late to turn back now. So, I decided, first off, that I was gonna raise my family. My husband, Joe, and I have three adult children and 10 amazing grandchildren. But it was important for me, in my life at that time, that before that I could step up to the plate and get involved in politics that I could raise my family.
So, while my youngest was still in high school… I’m a business consultant by trade, so I worked from home a lot. I would watch public access television and the Bellevue City Council meetings would be on public access television. And I would yell a lot at the tv. It’s like, “What do you mean you don’t have a plan? You don’t know what you’re gonna spend money on next year? And what do you mean you don’t have any metrics that measure that?”
Like I… And it got to be kind of crazy and it’s like, you know. After I did a little research, I realized that we’re what’s called a Dillon’s Rule state. And there’s nothing that happens in the political subdivisions like municipalities and counties and schools that isn’t written in state statute.
And you’re gonna wanna remember that ’cause we’re gonna talk about that later, I think.
And I was like, “Well, you know, maybe I could run for city council.” And the one that I could run for was, at large, was citywide. So, in Bellevue, there are five different wards. And then one at large, which is all five wards. So five times the emails, five times the phone calls, but not five times the pay kind of the moral of the story of public service in general.
And I had seven people in my primary, five Republicans and two Democrats. And I was lucky enough to make it through the primary was outspent five to one for the general election and still pulled it off.
I am pretty much always outspent, but I am never outworked. I like campaigning and I’m actually really good at it. But it’s been years of practice and I won reelection, so I served eight years on the Bellevue City Council and, by then, my youngest was in college. It was time to run for the legislature.
I did beat an incumbent to gain access to the legislature and I also won reelection for my second term. And to be really frank, once my term was over, I was gonna be done. I think I’ve served Nebraska well at both levels of government. I’ve learned so much. I am consistently helping other candidates when they’re throwing their hats in the ring at different levels of government because I feel that we have to lift each other up, especially women.
So, I feel like I’ve put good things back into the universe and, and that’s, if you can say anything, I can say that. But then I watched the primary and, by the eighth or ninth candidate that threw their hat in their ring, it was clear to me they were all playing out of the same playbook. This us versus them narrative that’s not only killing Nebraska but killing our country in general.
And they participated in something that I call smoke and mirrors. You know, “I want you to look up here. After you look up here, you’re gonna see that I’m trying to scare you with misinformation or trying to make an issue sound like it’s a bigger issue than it really is. And if you do that, you’re gonna be angry or you’re gonna be scared and then I never had to solve the real problems that face every day Nebraskans.” And you’re starting to see that in our unicameral. And, so, for me, that really wasn’t the Nebraska that I grew up in.
The Nebraska that I grew up in – and I was born in McCook, raised on a farm in Adams County, raised my own family in Sarpy County. So, I have my feet in both rural and urban. But I can remember like you go to the coffee shop and you get that cup of coffee and the cinnamon roll the size of your head, right? And you listen to your folks talk and it was never about party. And, by the way, I had one parent that was a Republican and one that was a Democrat. But I was told it was none of my business, who was who. So I never knew ‘til I was like 50. Which I think actually helped me in how I think about things.
What you would hear is like, “Oh, you know, what’s Jim Exon…” Former governor; I know you’re pretty young, so you may not know that. So, “Jim Exon: what’s, you know, what’s he doing for the farmers this year?” And it was never about party and there was never this rhetoric. Ever. And we voted for who we thought could do the job.
But then, you know, about 20 years ago, things changed and it became about, you know, “We hate the Democrats.” And then Democrats about two years later caught on and are like, Well, we hate you two, cuz they’re always last to the party. You know? And it never became about policy again.
It never became about, you know, “Here’s a problem that’s an opportunity, this is how I’m gonna fix it.”
And I couldn’t sit quietly. And it was like, you know, at the very least, I wanna move the needle back a bit. I wanna remind Nebraskans that there are some of us… I’ve won four campaigns and not once have I gotten dirty. There are some of us that can run without going dirty. There are some of us that can run and win without the political rhetoric. There’s some of us that just really wanna do what’s best for Nebraskans, not blow smoke up your skirt and tell you all the things I’m supposedly gonna fix but I never have a plan, right?
So I did. I’m not a sacrificial lamb. Nobody talked me into this. I was silly enough to do this myself. But it’s actually been great fun and I’m really fulfilled. And that was a long answer but that really is the reason I threw my hat in the ring. I just… I couldn’t take anymore.
And you know, I remember when the Republican party used to run on four pillars. It was always military, lower taxes, family values, and mmmm… I’m forgetting the fourth one right now. But they, like, if you were the dog catcher, you ran on that, right? And you don’t see that anymore. You don’t see people running on pillars and issues. They see people running on rhetoric and fear and, gosh, that’s not the Nebraska I wanna live in.
So this is how I try and fix it.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Now you mentioned that you don’t see candidates running on pillars anymore or issues. But you certainly have a nice layout of issues on your website. Now, there’s quite a few of them, but which one is gonna be your top priority if you make governor there?
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: There’s actually only four pillars, but underneath each pillar, there are like different topics to kind of give people a feel for what I mean when I talk about those.
So, I’m gonna run on those four pillars. But the way I’m gonna do it is we’re gonna have what’s called a strategic plan: a living, breathing document that is gonna give us a pathway to success. Right now, the state doesn’t have a plan. So, we’re gonna travel all over Nebraska to different communities. We’re gonna actually do it when people can come to the meetings. Not when the working men and women are out doing their jobs, but at night or on weekends. And, of course, we’ll invite elected officials and business professionals. And, I mean, we want everyone to come to the table, no matter who they are, what they look like, where they come from, or how they identify. All are welcome.
And what we’re gonna do, as we travel across Nebraska, is we’re gonna put together a plan. And we’re gonna say, “Okay, Lincoln, Nebraska. What are the top three priorities that you need from the state? You know, is it bridges? Is it roads?” Is it, if you’re out west, is it broadband? Is it mental health? Is it law enforcement? What are the most important issues that you need help with from the state? Then we’re gonna take those top three issues from every area that we go to and we’re gonna bring them back and put them together and figure out how we can make it happen.
I’m not promising that everything we bring back is gonna get done. That would be an outright lie. But everything we bring back if we can find a way to do it, we’re gonna try to do it.
But what’s really amazing about this is that, first of all, every year we’ll report back to Nebraskans. And not only will we report back to Nebraskans, but you’re gonna know that, first of all, your voice was part of that plan, which is really powerful. But you’ll also know how we’re spending your tax dollars. Like you don’t have to go online and go line by line and go, “Okay, what did they spend our money on this year?”
You’re like, “Oh, that new bridge. I remember talking about that at our meeting. I’m so glad to see that it’s finally getting done.”
And then again, something that’s never been done. We’re gonna mirror our budget to our wants, our needs, our goals, and – because it is a living, breathing document – we’ll revisit it every year and say, “Okay, why didn’t we get this accomplished? How did we get this one accomplished? What can we do better to make this happen?” And we’ll report back to Nebraska every year so they know our progress as well.
So, it’s something that’s never been done in my memory. And something that should be done. Because how we budget right now is we cut, cut, cut. And you hear that. You hear the candidates saying that all the time, like, “We’re gonna cut back on government spending.”
It’s like… well, it’s fine to cut back, but you have to have a plan. And, so, if you’re constantly cutting, what happens is you get overcrowded prisons like Nebraska has, you end up merging two entities and then you end up with things like the alt implant in Mead, Nebraska where people are getting poisoned. And the state’s complicit because we went ahead and cited them 13 times and never pulled a trigger.
So, we keep doing these things to save money, but what’s happening?
A St. Francis contract, that’s another good example. You know, we’re literally… Foster children were lost and families were separated that shouldn’t have been. And they came back to the well for more money and we gave him more money. We’re like an ATM when we make a mistake.
And, so, it isn’t about cut, cut, cutting unless it’s government spending. It’s about the fact that we had to stop making Nebraskans collateral damage to our bad and dumb decisions. And, to be really frank, if you look at a flow chart of how the government works, everything that we talk about that’s been allowed to fester in Nebraska falls under the executive branch.
So, we need leadership that says, “This is where the buck stops. I’m gonna take responsibility. I’m gonna put on my big girl pants,” and I’m gonna say, “You know what? We made a mistake. But this is an opportunity to fix it, not finger point and blame other people or pretend that we can – like with Mead, Nebraska – we’re just gonna shove it under the rug and hope that everybody forgets about it.” And then when people start getting these brain tumors and cancers and infertility, we’ll pretend we had nothing to do with it. So, you know, we used to talk about how water is life and how water is so important to ag[riculture], you know, and ag[riculture] drives our economy. But it’s funny that we get to pick and choose when it’s important to us.
So, yeah. For me, my four pillars; infrastructure, education, prosperity for all, and that I believe everybody has the right to be well and feel safe. And if you wanna address any of those, I’m happy to talk about that. But one of ’em, under those, falls property tax, and I’d love to talk about that today.
But I can just tell you that we’ve never had anybody come in with a plan. We always have people come in and say either, you know, “I’m not a politician.” Well, if you’re running for office, you’re a politician. You know, “I don’t belong to any one party.” Well, if you identify through a party, you identify with a party. You know? It just the rhetoric’s just ridiculous.
And what I love and I’m really proud of is, I have a successful track record and I’m clearly very transparent and open with what I believe. You know, every time I talk, even though I always hit the same points, it’s always very different based on who I’m talking to. So, what you see is what you get.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Now I do have some questions about your four pillars, however, I wanna address something else first.
We’ve talked a lot about party lines in the party division here in Nebraska and in America at a large given the likelihood that you’ll be working with a legislature and a state government that is divided along party lines, how do you plan to implement your issues or your responses to these issues?
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: Well, the same way I do it now. You know, I belong to a national project called the Listen First Project and I’m considered a national influencer. And it’s a great group of people from different parties and, on all levels, we will have like newscasters and business professionals. And what we do, one conversation at a time, is we teach people, and we practice this, is that you extend grace and listen first to understand when you disagree with someone.
And, so, you and I may strongly disagree on any issue and you’re gonna let me know that. And I’m gonna say, “Can you please share with me why you believe what you believe, and kind of like where this comes from?” And then you’re gonna talk to me and tell me those answers. And instead of thinking about what I’m gonna say next because that just means we’re hearing you [and] not listening to you, I’m going to thank you for the dialog. And leave it at that. I don’t need to shove my opinion down your throat, but I do need to know where you’re coming from if I wanna weave community. because that helps me better understand how we can work together, how we can serve together. So, you know, we all work sometimes with people that we don’t care for, but if it’s for the greater good to get along and to communicate… That’s what I’m gonna do.
Not gonna have them over to my house for Christmas, but I’m gonna work with them and I’m gonna make sure that we do the best that we can. And I have been very successful legislatively. And a lot of people actually confuse my parties because I’ve had so many bills pass for veterans and military families. That’s supposedly not a thing that a Democrat does. Or, you know, the fact that I voted for the two biggest property tax relief bills in the history of Nebraska. You know, everybody wants to put somebody in a box. You know, Republicans do this or Democrats do this, and Libertarians are this. You know?
I’m a Nebraskan and my track record shows you that, you know. I know I’m a democrat because I was raised to believe that if you worked hard, you should get a living wage and you should have good benefits, and should be able to retire after 20 years. That and Democrats brought electricity to rural Nebraska. Which really shows the farm girl in me.
So, it was really weird for me to see, to see Democrats described as something else. And I gotta be honest, I can’t tell you what my party platform is because that’s not why I’m a Dem[ocrat]. I’m, I mean… I’m a Dem[ocrat] because I believe that when you lift up the middle class, you lift everybody up. And it’s really unfortunate that people think that if you’re one party or the other, they can’t vote for you. If somebody’s better, regardless of party, you need to get them elected because when you vote for more of the same, you get more of the same. Right? Don’t expect change if you keep voting for the same thing. I don’t care what your party is.
Kind of easy, right? So yeah, I just think the rhetoric is crazy.
And, again, that’s why I ran. There’s too much finger-pointing. There’s too much smoke and mirrors and gosh, whatever happened to compassion for your fellow man, right? And woman and whoever, however, you identify. Like whatever happened to compassion? And I just don’t wanna be that person.
I wanna be who I am. And, you know, if I can’t win by being this person, then the universe doesn’t want it to happen.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then you mentioned that you were very excited to talk about property taxes.
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: Yeah.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: So, I think we might switch gears a little bit and talk about that. On your website, I noticed you’ve got a link there in that “Prosperity for All Nebraskans” that says ‘the big lie of property taxes.’ Why don’t we talk about that a little bit? What’s the big lie?
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: The big lie is that we have known for 25 years that unfunded mandates, underfunded mandates, and not fully funding our schools is the underlying cause of why your property taxes are high. Remember I spoke earlier about how I discovered we are a Dillon’s Rule state?
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yes.
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: So that means that there’s really nothing that our political subdivisions can do that isn’t already in state statute. So, we actually limit the ways that they can pay for things. So we’ve known since Ben Nelson was governor, he did two research studies: one pertained to schools, one pertained to counties, and both said property taxes will always be high unless you stop unfunded and underfunded mandates.
Senator Deb Fisher, when she was in the body had a bill. Senator Justin Wayne, Senator Sue Crawford. Senator Carol Blood! I actually had a constitutional amendment this year that said, should Nebraska pass any laws without showing how they can pay for it?
Kind of makes sense.
But I was told by certain peers that we can’t pass bills like that [be]cause if we do that, how will Nebraskans know how they get their property tax relief? And I’m serious when I say that.
But more than that is that, during the last recession and that’s when I was on the Bellevue City Council, we took away aid to local government, which created an even bigger burden. And you might say, well, you know, “How much can that add up to Carol?”
Well, I’ll give you two examples. So, Johnson County… And I’m gonna ask you this question, I’m gonna let you guess, okay? And it’s okay if you get it wrong. We’ll still love you.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: So that’s good. [Be]cause my math is terrible.
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: Oh no, it’s not math. Don’t worry.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Oh, okay.
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: So. Johnson County has Tecumseh State Prison in it. So, when an inmate dies, who pays for that autopsy?
Amantha Dickman, News Director: It’s the inmate. Wouldn’t it be?
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: It’s the county.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Oh, okay.
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: Who pays for the grand jury investigation?
Amantha Dickman, News Director: The county.
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: The county. Yeah. You catch it on fast.
So, I live in Sarpy County, the fastest-growing county in the whole state of Nebraska. So, when a state judge is in our county, who pays for their office staff?
Amantha Dickman, News Director: The county.
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: Thank you.
Who pays for the utilities in their office space?
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Hmm. I think maybe the county.
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: There you go. You got it. I love it when people catch on fast. It makes it so much easier.
So. I know about halfway through the year, and I’ve been so busy with the campaign I haven’t looked lately in Sarpy County, we had paid over $10 million in unfunded and underfunded mandates.
And when we’ve lost that aid to local government, we lost that balance. So because we are Dillon’s Rule estate and we limit the tools, what do you think is the tool that they usually use when they end up having to go over budget? [Be]cause they pay for all these mandates. How do they pay for it?
Amantha Dickman, News Director: They probably add it to our property taxes, huh?
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: They add it to our property taxes because we do limit how they can raise funds. And we already do cap them. A lot of people are like, “Well, we should cap them.” It’s like we do cap local government, by the way, and…
What people have to understand, and you know, there’s always the people who are like, “Well we don’t need government to do any of this stuff.” It’s like, well, good luck. [Be]cause we do need government to judges and to run our jails and we need a county board to make sure that your money is spent wisely and if you don’t like what your county board’s doing [then] elect somebody else.
But I can tell you that it’s become a huge burden.
And what happens is we were told… there was actually a study done 10, 15 years ago. And there’s a tax study done, and they said, “First of all, don’t make tax policy in an election year.”
When do we always do it? In an election year. Because then what do they run on? I lowered your taxes. But really what they’ve been doing is playing a shell game with your taxes.
And, so, if we do a strategic plan and we mirror our budget to match that plan, we’ll be able to save tax dollars. And we also haven’t… we don’t do things like, we don’t bond when we have road projects. And that’s a really missed opportunity for Nebraska because our roads or bridges and other things are getting behind. Especially when you look at some of the demographics and the populations that have grown in certain parts of the state. And since AG drives this community, as does manufacturing, we have to be able to get from point A to point B.
If we bond when the rates change, we can lower those rates. We’re one of only two states in the United States that doesn’t bond for projects. Like we are constantly lying to Nebraskans about what’s going on with their taxes.
If you look at the last session we lowered income taxes for the wealthy and for big businesses. And I’m not saying that that doesn’t have to happen but who pays the vast majority of taxes in Nebraska? It’s the middle-class people, like you and I, so the burden is on our shoulders. We fought hard to try and get a real tax break income tax-wise for the middle class. And, of course, we were a minority and we couldn’t get it passed. And, so, what the middle class got was like a whole $7 on their income taxes. That’s not right. That’s not fair. Yet our state keeps getting away with it because what they’re being told when they run for election, what the Nebraskans are being told, is not the truth.
And, so, the big lie about property taxes is until we stop unfunded, underfunded mandates, and we fully fund our schools – [be]cause we have schools out in rural Nebraska that aren’t receiving state aid who have to depend on having wealthy people in their counties in order to pay for their schools,
again, through property taxes, right. We have that T.E.E.O.S.A formula that is antiquated and it doesn’t work. It’s gonna take, not a new T.E.E.O.S.A formula, but two or three solutions to making sure that we can fully fund all of our schools adequately.
So long, long answer, but it’s… it’s… clearly I have a plan. And it drives me crazy that we’ve known for decades. And if you talk to anybody at county level, they’ll tell you the same thing, as well as our schools.
I mean, think about it. Even something as simple as law enforcement, right?
We mandated new law enforcement training, which isn’t a bad thing. But then that burden goes on those counties and those municipalities. Or they go on the law enforcement training center, which the state literally defunded with the cut, cut, cutting, creating long lists of people that had to wait to be trained. Because the executive branch asked the training center not to spend the money that had been allocated to it to upgrade the facilities and hire new staff. And so that created, under the category of feel safe and be well, that was one of the issues is that we had rural people… You know, you’re young, but like 25 years ago they were telling us there was gonna be a workforce shortage and now everybody’s like really surprised that we have a workforce shortage [be]cause the baby boomers were aging out. And, so, we’re seeing that law enforcement out west, especially our rural areas, would hire somebody for their sheriff’s department because baby boomers had aged out and retired and they couldn’t get him trained.
And, so, if you hire somebody and you can’t get them on the streets in six to nine months, that’s a safety issue and then it’s a turnover issue because then they go to bigger cities or other states because they can’t start working in your community.
So, we created like all kinds of problems with that. Sarpy County, we had put together our all-own training academy because it was endangering our communities. So, Bellevue, Papillion, La Vista. Sarpy County Sheriff’s Department and Douglas County Sheriff’s Department used their own funds and put together their own training facility because it was to the point of it was dangerous, if you can’t hire folks.
So these unfunded mandates, it touches down on so many things and what it creates is higher property taxes and it also creates safety issues. And that’s really unfortunate because had we had a plan, we could have addressed issues like this. We’d have to upgrade the facility. We knew we’d have to hire new people. What did we do? We told them we’re gonna cut your budget and tough it out. And then who gets punished? Nebraskans, the taxpayers, the people who actually pay for those things. It’s crazy.
That was a long answer for you. I’m sorry.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Oh, no, that’s wonderful.
And actually you, you touched on quite a few other things that I wanted to talk about that LB-51 with the law enforcement training management, the other aspects in which property taxes affect issues here in. Our local communities, so I’m really glad that your answer was so thorough.
Right now we have a small break scheduled. Afterward, we will be continuing our conversation with Senator Carol Blood about her gubernatorial campaign and the upcoming November 8, general election. Keep an ear out and don’t miss it.
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Amantha Dickman, News Director: We are back in the studio with Senator Carol Blood. Senator Blood is one of three gubernatorial candidates running to replace Governor Ricketts on November 8.
Before the break, we talked about property taxes.
And, of course, obviously, you have a plan for how to address this, and one of these aspects is probably creating new economic growth through population retention. And I noticed this is a really big conversation, particularly in Lincoln and the surrounding communities about retaining individuals ages 18 to 34, I think, is what our Lincoln Chamber of Commerce is currently addressing in terms of demographics. I guess I want to know a little bit about your thoughts on the subject for population retention and those economic growth opportunities in Nebraska across the state, rural and urban.
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: That’s a great question and an easy answer.
So, we’ll start with part one of the puzzle.
I believe in a PK through 14 education. The PK is important because we know that if we wanna keep people in the state, we need to keep them well and we need to give them a good start in life. We know that we pay our childcare workers less than they can make at a fast food restaurant. That’s something that we have to work on and that we can do better. And I actually believe in universal childcare, as much as what was just passed in Colorado, that’s gonna give a lot of our families a hand up that allows the parents to generate good income while also making sure that their child is in an environment that is nurturing and helps them get on the path.
I believe in good PK because it helps us sometimes with the red flags, like if they’re in a cycle of violence or a cycle of poverty. We know that if we can catch those things early on, we can help those families and we can give that child a good start. We’ll go to the other end of it, the PK through 14.
We have invested tens of millions of dollars in our community colleges here in Nebraska, and the infrastructure is already there. And we do have pockets that were already doing this but we need to make it comprehensive, where we can give a high school senior up to two years of free community college to get a six-month certification, a two-year degree in ag[riculture], in insurance, in healthcare, IT, all of these trades where we definitely need workers.
But what’s awesome about it is that, if we do it through a public-private partnership, that we’ll be able to make sure that those people are hooked into jobs as they leave that institution. But they’re hooked into jobs without having any overhead. No college debt. And they’ll be able to enter jobs that are good paying jobs with benefits. Like I talked about, why I’m a Dem[ocrat], right? Good jobs with benefits and retirement. And so, if we’re able to do that, they’re more likely to stay in our state because we know the number one reason that people leave Nebraska in the 18 to 34-year-old age group is for better opportunities.
Secondary is that our executive branch has been less than friendly when it comes to people who identify differently than I do.
We need to make sure that when we use language to talk about Nebraskans, that we talk about all Nebraskans; that there is equality. Because, with all due respect, I mean, we can just be really pragmatic about it. Like no matter how you identify, pretty sure you pay taxes. Like we’re in Nebraska. We pay taxes for that. At the very least, you should be treated the same as everybody else.
But the language that we hear coming from the executive branch is not compassionate and not kind. And, so, I talk to a lot of people in the LGBTQ+ community that they have left or are leaving because they don’t feel welcome. And it’s really a shame that you can’t feel welcome in your own state.
The Nebraska, again, that I grew up in was live and let live. Like I never remember people talking about things like this. You knew how people identified and it was like, meh. You know, that’s Bobby, our neighbor. That’s, you know, those are the two aunties that lived together. You never really. It just wasn’t talked about like it is talked about now. And, maybe, granted a lot of it was behind closed doors and hidden, and people weren’t comfortable talking about it. But I never remember people talking about it in a way that was hateful and dangerous like we do now.
So, if we wanna keep young people in Nebraska, we have to be able to get them to good-paying jobs as soon as we can. If we want them to have families in Nebraska we have to make sure, again, universal childcare, we need affordable housing. And affordable housing is not workforce housing. Affordable housing is 30% of your income.
And, again, we knew 20 years ago we were gonna have a housing shortage, and what did we do? We waited till it festered and threw money at it. Tens of millions of dollars.
We need to make sure that they have healthcare that’s accessible to them. And when I say accessible, I don’t just mean location. I mean, can they get it through telemedicine? What are their options as far as being able to take care of their health and their family’s health?
We also need to make sure that they have things to do. That sounds like it’s not a big deal but if you’re bored and you’re looking for adventure, you might wanna go over to Colorado. You might wanna go to Illinois. You know, look for something bigger and better.
But we do have the potential, in Nebraska, to have so much more when it comes to things to do.
And I think sometimes too, we don’t toot our own horn enough. This summer, on my Senator Carol Blood Facebook page, I did a whole series of like fun places you could visit in Nebraska that you might not know about. And I can say that that got the biggest response of anything I’ve posted in six years. But people were like, “I didn’t know that was there. And that sounds like a lot of fun. We’re gonna go visit there.”
And, again, that’s another good example is if you look at our leadership’s social media. It’s pretty much like, “I hate President Biden.” Which he has the right to do that. And I don’t disagree that he has the right to do that.
But then you look at some of our neighboring states and they’re like, “Oh look, I’m at this brewery and this is a delightful beer. Or, I’m going skiing today and come and visit this mountain.” And every day it’s something. Multiple things in a day. You know, like, eat a cookie here, buy a loaf for bread there. And this is a wonderful place. And ours is just like, “Ah, federal government has it wrong.”
And it’s like, “Mm, okay, but what about Nebraska?” Right? Like if we want 18 to 34-year-olds and others to stick around, why can’t we be more welcoming? We can’t make everybody happy, but gosh, can we at least act like we think that this is an awesome place to live [be]cause I do.
We have a lot to do to make them feel welcome, but they’re not fixes that are gonna require tax dollars. They’re fixes the we have to tweak, right? We have to make it easier for them to live here and affordable for them to live here. And we can’t do that without good job opportunities.
One of the things that drove me crazy before I got elected was we gave out a lot of money for economic development, but there were no metrics. Like, if we do a strategic plan, we’re gonna have metrics.
You have to measure what you treasure so you know that it’s a good investment. That’s a business philosophy. They always say, “run your state like a business.” I never see them doing that. I see them saying it a lot but they never have any metrics. We gave out a ton of money and they weren’t even for full-time jobs with good benefits.
So, if we’re giving out all this money and they’re paying bad wages and part-time wages, how does that keep 18 to 34-year-olds in Nebraska?
But, again, we’ve known for two and a half decades that there was gonna be a workforce shortage but we’ve gotta start planning for the future.
It doesn’t matter who’s gonna be governor in 10, 20 years. You gotta get Nebraska on the right path and pass it on to whoever comes after you.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then the rest of these questions are very issue-focused and they have been submitted by various listeners and individuals who have questions about what you feel on these subjects.
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: Fair enough.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: So we’ve got the first one and it is about that minimum wage ballot issue. They want to know, do you support it? Do you not support it? I’m guessing from our conversation today you do.
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: I do support it. And I’m gonna tell you one of the reasons I support it. And I’m really disappointed that, at our federal level, they’re so busy with all the shenanigans that they’re not getting it done.
You keep hearing how the federal government wants to eliminate social security because it’s not gonna be able to maintain much longer. Well, the reason it’s not able to maintain, or one of the reasons it’s not able to maintain for so much longer is because we haven’t raised the minimum wage in like forever. And the baby boomers are aging out. So, who’s paying into that system?
So here we have these people aging out that need Social Security and we have younger people that aren’t making a living wage, so less money is going into Social Security as a result of it. So just for that one factor alone, especially since I’m 61 [and] I want Social Security to be around when I’m old enough to actually use it.
So, for me, I like to look at the big picture but, more than that, if we do wanna keep 18 to 34-year-olds we have to be able to pay them what they’re worth. There’s a lot to be said for getting paid what you’re worth.
When you work hard, it’s very fulfilling. You’re more likely to stay in your job. You’re less likely to have the stress and mental health issues that come along with being able to having to live paycheck to paycheck.
And I’m very middle class. I know what it’s like to have big medical bills and wonder… I can remember when my son had brain tumors and my husband had cancer all in the same year. And it was like, “Okay. Well I can make the meat go this far and I can just like not eat, I don’t eat meat anyway, usually.”
But you have to make these decisions. Like, how can I feed my family on $50 a week? And I did it. Thank goodness I’m a farm girl and I can cook really well and I can stretch a dollar. But people shouldn’t have to live that way. And things happen. But if it’s a benefit to raise the minimum wage to make lives better for people, why wouldn’t we wanna do it?
And data already shows us that businesses don’t shut down. And what it really does too is that it, you know, we raised the minimum wage before and our coffers have been pretty good because people have disposable income.
One of the reasons our coffers stay really well is [be]cause we do keep raising the minimum wage. And the small businesses can complain about it but, statistically, and I do empathize with that, but statistically you’ll have a stronger, better workforce, a happier workforce, and we’ll have more disposable income that is spent in Nebraska, which helps our overall economy.
I talked about compassion earlier. We can be compassionate. It’s hard to raise a family. It’s not like it was when our parents were raising the families. We have a whole generation now that lacks generational wealth, where our folks are able to build generational wealth and pass it on. These 18 to 34-year-olds…
If you look at my plan, that’s part of my plan. Prosperity for All. We can do that without taxes. We can show them that there’s ways that they can save and they can start building retirement and they can start building a future for future generations within their own family. And that’s, again, a really powerful thing. We don’t talk about those things. We have expectations that everybody knows how to do it.
And, clearly, data… I’m really big on data science and facts. So, clearly, data and facts shows us that that’s not indeed the case. And, again, that gives everybody an opportunity to get to stay in Nebraska. If you’re happy and you’re doing well financially, you know, unless you’re buying a summer home somewhere and you’re really doing well, you’re gonna stay in Nebraska.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then we’ve got another question here. We’ve talked a lot about how agriculture is important to the economic growth and development here in Nebraska, and there are concerns about how climate change might impact our local agriculture and economic growth. Will you be encouraging changes to make our communities more environmentally friendly?
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: So, I’m on the team that I believe that climate change, no matter what’s causing it, is happening. And I can tell you, being next to Air Force Base that I’ve had the 55th Wing Commander, not the current one but a previous one, tell me that it actually affects how they’ve done their missions, where they’re needed at, and why.
So, they’ve even had to change how they do things of the 55th Wing in the Air Force, which is really interesting and people don’t usually think about those things. And it would change things for like the National Guard, like floods and fires. So it is clear, no matter what the reason, that there’s a climate change issue.
I think it’s really interesting that, during a press conference several months ago, our executive branch said, “Well, yeah, there’s a drought but our farmers know how to handle this and they got it under control.”
Well, if ag[riculture] really drives our economy, we need to have a plan for things like this. And we don’t really have a plan. And I’m not just saying, admit that climate change is real. I’m saying that when there’s a drought when there’s a flood, when there’s a fire, that we should have boots on the ground. It should be [that] our executive branch has boots on the ground, not to go and get your picture taken.
It’s like, “Oh look! I’m handing out supplies.” It should be like, “What can we do? How can we get things done? Let’s get you signed up for the programs that are available to help you out. You know, what do you need from us?”
We’re not seeing that in Nebraska. The farmers are kind of on their own. And there’s no reason that we can’t have, with all the staff that we have, that we can’t have people that go out for details like that or put together even a volunteer group to do things like that, that are prepared. We see that with a lot of our first responders, right? They go out to other states and help with floods and help with fires. Because they’re trained to do that. There’s no reason we can’t do that for ag[riculture].
We know that ag[riculture] drives our economy, that we really have to protect our aquifers. We know what this drought has done to the waterways. So, if we are contributing to that by again, poisoning the waterways, and we’re not paying attention to what we are doing environmentally on top of the climate change, we’re really gonna be doomed because if ag[riculture] doesn’t do well… In Nebraska, doesn’t do well, you know… During the recessions, Nebraska actually holds pretty tight. While you could go to the East or West coast, they’re usually struggling during a recession. We’re really fortunate, in that fashion, and you can thank ag[riculture for that.
But how we do things, and one of the things that I’ve pushed since I was a senator and it’s been a really hard push, is that we need to invest more in technology when it comes to ag[riculture].
We know that blockchain can save farmers money and can help them with things that pertain to climate change. We know that AI robots and co-bots that there’s a lot of opportunities, which also, by the way, would help us with our workforce shortage. It does not take away jobs, it just fills in jobs where we don’t have bodies that can be done with technology.
We are not doing a very good job. And what’s really weird about it, is that we’re not doing a job at the state level. But the university and Offutt Air Force base… like we have all of these hubs when it comes to technology, we have so many opportunities that, if we could bring this together, we could bring really great change to our ag[ricultural] community, especially for the next generation.
Right? Make it more enticing, more exciting, more something different than how daddy and grandpa farmed and help them when it comes to climate change; be it sensors, be it how you track it, be it how you handle it, that can all be done with technology.
And it’s just like, what I think is interesting is that if you look at the last few governors, they win because of the rural vote. But when they get to Lincoln, they seem to forget the rural voters. Right? Like, “Yeah, thanks for those votes. See ya.”
So, I think, especially the rural areas, really need to start waking up and saying, “Okay, well what’s in this for me?” Because family farms are closing down, corporate farms are taking over and they’re making it hard on the generational farms that have been around for a long. And those big corporate farms often are less careful when it comes to the environment, while your family farm really worries about that. Cause it’s in the family, right? And they wanna pass it down. They wanna make sure that they keep their wells safe, that their family bays and drinks out of them. So, they’re actually, a lot of people don’t realize that farmers in Nebraska are environmentalists.
But corporate America? Not so much and they get away with it in Nebraska.
So, climate change? Yes. I’m a believer that there is climate change. As to the reason why? You know, I don’t know. I do believe so much of it is manmade. I mean, and they told us long time ago everything from like hairspray to like… don’t use those things. They’re gonna be bad for the environment. But we did it anyway. And now we’re paying the price. But I do wanna see us have a plan. And people can still deny that there’s a climate change issue but they can’t deny that there’s the very least a cycle where things are gonna be challenging and that we should be prepared for that. So, you don’t have to agree with the fact that there’s climate change but you do have to agree with the fact that we gotta protect ag[riculture] right? And our waterways?
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then we are out of questions and almost out of time, however, is there anything you’d like to comment on that you feel like we haven’t talked about yet today?
Senator Carol Blood, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: Oh gosh. I don’t know.
So yeah. I mean, I think I already said this, but, when I talk to my friends that might be a different party from me, I always ask the question, “Are you happy with how things have been going the last 20, 25 years?” And I can tell you, I don’t think I’ve had anybody tell me “Yes.” Like… high property taxes, prison overcrowding that we think we can build our way out of, which we cannot. And if we wanna be tough on crime, we have got to find other solutions [be]cause we’re wasting your tax dollars. You know, these bad contracts where the taxpayers are the ones ultimately that paid. I mean, people are unhappy with these things. \
So, again, I ask them… “If you’re unhappy, why do you keep voting the same way? Isn’t it time for a change? Isn’t it time for new blood?”
And I encourage people to really learn more about me. I’m very accessible. You can actually call me directly on my cell phone, as I’ve done for as long as I’ve been elected official. I’ve never changed my number. To reach out to me with your questions and just think about whether you want a better Nebraska, not more rhetoric that pertains to parties.
Not more of this, “I’m a Nebraskan, not a party person.” [Be]cause if you’re running in a party, you’re a party person. But ask people why they believe what they believe and why they belong to a party. Because sometimes I think you’re gonna find out that their answers differ from what you believe the party is about. And look at people’s track records. Highly successful track record of reaching across the aisles and helping Nebraskans at all levels of life. I’m really proud of that. That didn’t happen magically. That happened through hard work. Keeping my head down, staying out of the political part of policy making, making it about policy and people and not politics or party.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Thank you so much for joining us today, Senator Blood. We appreciate you taking time to discuss your campaign with us.
If you are just tuning in, that was Senator Carol Blood, the gubernatorial candidate representing the Democratic party. If you would like to learn more about her campaign issues you can head right over to electcarolblood.com to learn more.
Now, we are running short on time. But we do still have one more gubernatorial candidate to sit down with. Scott Zimmerman is running on the libertarian ticket for the general election. Mr. Zimmerman will be joining us next Saturday to spend the hour discussing his platform. If you want to read up on his campaign in preparation for Saturday, October 15, you can visit votezimmerman.com to take a peek at his issues. But don’t forget to tune in because we have some questions for Mr. Zimmerman that aren’t listed on his website.
And, as promised during our overview of Mr. Pillen’s campaign issues, we have included the link to his campaign website in our transcript. You can find more information at jimpillen.com. Mr. Pillen declined to join us in the studio but we want to make sure you have access to all the information you need before November 8.
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