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Sen. Steve Erdman Speaking in Harrison, NE
Last week I put a thousand miles on my truck as Joel Hunt (my Legislative Aide) and I toured together the ten counties of the Panhandle which make up Legislative District 47. Throughout the week I held nine town hall meetings in Bayard, Bridgeport, Chappell, Harrison, Hemingford, Kimball, Ogallala, Oshkosh, and Sidney. I would like to personally thank everyone who came out to attend these town hall meetings.
These town hall meetings are very important to me. These town hall meetings are important because they provide me with the opportunity to meet new people living in the Panhandle, to hear the concerns of the constituency, and to form strategies for the upcoming legislative session. They also give me the opportunity to communicate with the folks living in Western Nebraska.
After speaking to people from all ten counties in my district, I have been firmly reminded that the two most important priorities of mine going into the new legislative session need to be property tax relief and agricultural land valuation reform. These are the two issues which matter most to my constituents, and these have been my top two priorities for my first two years in the Nebraska Legislature. So, I remain eager to fight for these two causes again next year. Therefore, I will introduce a Constitutional Amendment to allow all property owners to claim 35 percent of their property tax bill as a credit or a refund on their State Income Tax return, and I have also been working on a new agricultural land valuation reform bill that will change the way we value agricultural land from the current market based system to a productivity based system.
What came up as a new issue for me to tackle during these town hall meetings was the problem of antelope in the Panhandle. In the Western counties of the Panhandle, especially those bordering Colorado and Wyoming, antelope have been destroying crops and fences. Almost everywhere I went, constituents sought me out to talk about the problem of antelope on their land. During my journey through Sioux County alone we encountered a herd that Joel and I estimated at approximately 1,000 antelope. They were just too numerous to count. So, I understand that this is a big problem effecting many farmers and ranchers, and I intend to address this problem going forward.
The most controversial matter which came up in these town hall meetings was Medicaid Expansion. While the voters in Douglas, Sarpy and Lancaster Counties alone were enough to guarantee passage of the Medicaid Expansion ballot initiative, rural Nebraskans rejected it soundly. In the ten counties which comprise Legislative District 47 voters rejected the initiative by fifty five percent of the vote. Only forty five percent voted for it. In light of the fact that the majority of the voters living in District 47 opposed the Medicaid Expansion ballot initiative, I am leaning towards voting against funding for Medicaid Expansion when it comes up in the Legislature. Funding for Medicaid Expansion could take important benefits away from our state’s poorest citizens, who need them most. I believe those who most need help from the State are children, single mothers, the sick, and the disabled, and funding for Medicaid Expansion may take benefits away from these folks in order to put more people on the Medicaid rolls.
Western Nebraska is beautiful place to live, and the people who live here are truly the salt of the earth. Thank you for allowing me to serve you and to represent you in the Nebraska Legislature. If you were unable to attend a town hall meeting in your neck of the woods, but would still like to voice your concerns, you may send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at (402) 471-2616.