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This interim, I’ve met with thousands of people across District 1. Whether it’s conversations held in Nebraska City or Du Bois, or even across the spectrum of liberals to conservatives, the major concerns are the same: property taxes are too high and flooding seems like it will never end. There’s a common theme in each conversation, as well: we all want a brighter future for southeast Nebraska.
There have been several weekly columns dedicated to provide answers for our property tax crisis and share my battles with the Corps of Engineers and federal government to ensure adequate resources for flood recovery. These are my top legislative priorities for the 2020 session and beyond. As we approach session, however, it’s encouraging to see a common goal that crosses party lines and any other divides that we may impose upon ourselves. This shared goal influences every decision made during my time in office.
This week’s column will focus on the factors necessary to create growth in rural areas, based around a simple fact: communities need to attract young people in order to thrive. We need to ensure that our young people have strong communities to encourage them to return home. In my research on the issue, rooted in my personal experience as someone who left the area for college, but chose to come back to southeast Nebraska, there are four keys to drawing our young people back home: economic opportunity, reasonable taxes, strong schools, and modern infrastructure.
“Economic opportunities” boil down to jobs. Can a young person find a job that they’re qualified for nearby that provides competitive pay? For many, this interacts with the second key: reasonable taxes. When that job is found, can the young person afford to live in the area? This aspect goes beyond property taxes, which play a major role in their own right, and extends to sales, income, and other taxes, too. Young people looking to plant their family’s roots also consider the school district where their children will receive their education. What opportunities and community support are found in this district? Will my child receive a quality education? Last, but certainly not least, infrastructure includes access to roads, community facilities, and wi-fi. Access to the internet plays a large role in a young family’s decision to live in an area. Most millennials need access to the internet to complete basic functions of their job, like email.
If Nebraskans are serious about their desire to grow our rural communities, we must create policies to address these four keys. I wholeheartedly support economic incentives to grow our rural businesses, an overhaul of our tax code and cuts of wasteful spending within our government to lower taxes, state aid funding reform for K-12 education to ensure that all school districts receive some form of financial support from the state, and initiatives to improve our roads and connect rural Nebraska to the internet. The unity I’ve seen across southeast Nebraska in support of a brighter future for our area is encouraging. Make no mistake about it, District 1- we’re all in this together.
As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.