NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Sen. Steve Erdman

Sen. Steve Erdman

District 47

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at serdman@leg.ne.gov

Straight Talk From Steve…
November 15th, 2019

The HVAC renovation work at the Capitol Building in Lincoln is proceeding nicely. As many of you know, my office was temporarily relocated up to the twelfth floor of the Capitol Building’s tower during the first phase of the HVAC renovation project. However, the first phase is finally coming to an end. So, my new office will be in Room 1124, which is located on the south side of the first floor of the Capitol Building. Whenever you come to Lincoln, please feel free to stop by and say, “Hello.”

November is usually the month we reserve for giving thanks. Thanksgiving is an American tradition that we usually trace all the way back to the first pilgrims, who had much to be thankful for, especially after enduring a long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean on rough seas, a harsh winter, fatal diseases, and even starvation due to lack of food. In spite of all of their suffering, they chose to give glory to God and return thanks for his abundant provision. Above all else, they considered themselves to be blessed for finally having the freedom to worship God in their own way.

I have chosen to write on the subject of giving thanks early this year because I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul in the Bible when he said, “Be thankful” (Colossians 3:15) and “Give thanks in all circumstances,” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Just as I wrote last week about honoring our veterans throughout the year and not just on Veterans Day, I believe giving thanks is also something that should be done throughout the year and not just on Thanksgiving Day. A truly thankful person gives thanks all year long.

So, give thanks no matter the circumstances. In spite of whatever fate we may be facing this year, especially due to the recent blizzards, floods, or loss of crops, let us remember to give thanks for all that we do have. Like the pilgrims, let’s remember how God has blessed our nation with liberty and justice for all. We have successfully repelled all foreign invaders, and we have been the voice of freedom throughout the world. Our economic prosperity, our freedoms, and even our right to own a gun all remain the envy of the world.

While the right to life is guaranteed to us in the Declaration of Independence, life itself is only temporary. God is the giver and taker of life, and only two things are really ever guaranteed to us in this life, namely death and taxes. So, let’s enjoy what we have while we still have the time to do so and before the government takes it away from us. The pilgrims had a favorite proverb which said, “We live and then we die.” The point of the proverb is to enjoy life and to celebrate all that God has blessed you with while you still have the time and the means to do so.

Finally, I am thankful many things. I am thankful for my wife, my three sons and their wives, and my nine grandchildren. I am thankful for my staff and I am thankful for the opportunity to serve and represent all of the folks of Legislative District 47.

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The Grave Stone of Mr. John Ogden

The winged skull means, “You live and then you die.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Straight Talk From Steve…
November 7th, 2019

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In Western Nebraska the term, “Big Mac,” often refers to something much bigger than a hamburger. Lake McConaughy, or Big Mac, is the aquatic pride and joy of the Panhandle, and, yes, it is much bigger than a hamburger.

I recently attended a fundraiser at Lake McConaughy that was sponsored by the Ogallala Rotary Club. In fact, this year marked the fourth time I attended the Kayak Big Mac. Kayak Big Mac is the Rotary Club’s annual fundraiser for water projects.

This year the Ogallala Rotary Club set out to raise money to pay for swimming lessons for needy children. Water safety is essential in watery places like Big Mac, so it is important that all kids know how to swim.

Kayak Big Mac brings in people from out of town and gets them outdoors to enjoy the lake during the offseason. Participants prepare ahead of time by getting people to sponsor them. Then, when the big day arrives they start the day off with a pancake breakfast, then they paddle their kayaks three miles across the lake. Once they reach their final destination, they get to warm up with a hot bowl of chili.

The event was a big success and no one fell out of their kayak. This year the Kayak Big Mac had 46 participants, approximately 80 spectators and brought in $1,800. Not bad for a day of kayaking on a cold and blustery day!

Next spring the Ogallala Rotary Club will be partnering up with the Goodall Recreation Center to talk to school children about water safety. They plan to give kindergarteners a copy of the book, Josh the Otter, and talk to parents about how to sign up for free swimming lessons.

Finally, I would like to remind everyone to continue to remember our veterans beyond Veterans Day. If you think about it, every day should really be Veterans Day. Is there ever a day when we should not be thankful for their service to our country?

Veterans Day is a day we set aside to intentionally honor our veterans. But, just as it means more to a parent when their child expresses thanksgiving for a gift without being coaxed to do so, so also it means more to a veteran to hear those words of gratitude for their service and sacrifice from American citizens on days other than Veterans Day. So, let’s be intentional this year about thanking veterans throughout the year and not just on those days when we are supposed to.

May we never forget that all gave some, but some gave all. Thank you veterans.

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Straight Talk From Steve…
November 1st, 2019

 

This week I would like to thank all those who do volunteer work across our state and celebrate some of their accomplishments. Last week I attended the awards ceremony of ServeNebraska, an organization which seeks to strengthen communities by promoting volunteerism. Needless to say, I met some amazing people and heard some of their stories. So, today I would like to tell you about three award winners who stood out to me.

The first was Wolf Auto in Ogallala. Wolf Auto won in the Small Business category for their numerous volunteer work. Employees at Wolf Auto volunteer in several service organizations and host a variety of fund-raising events for local causes. During the March floods, for instance, Wolf Auto sent semi-truck loads of cleaning supplies and hay to the affected areas. Dave Wolf, the CEO even donated a mobile home to a family in Fremont. Isn’t it nice when folks from Western Nebraska get recognized in the State for the tremendous work they do?

The second person who stood out to me was Molly Kammerer of Sutherland. Molly is a 15 year-old high school sophomore. Besides being involved in high school sports, Student Council, drama, TeamMates, and making the academic honor roll, Molly was selected for the National FFA Honor Choir and sang the National Anthem at several Memorial Day programs and even played Taps on her trumpet for the Color Guard as they retired an American flag. In addition, her community service also included working at a local food pantry, serving at a pancake feed on the 4th of July, and working as a leader in her church’s Vacation Bible School Camp. Molly set such an outstanding example of volunteerism in her small town that she won the Youth Volunteer Leadership award.

Finally, Alyssa Spartz, a student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, stood out to me because of the way she helped our flood victims this year. Alyssa put her studies in Emergency Management and Psychology directly into action by volunteering with the Red Cross in Fremont. She then started an emergency housing facility, set up cots, and organized donations for disaster relief. After the flood waters receded, Alyssa stayed around to assist in the clean-up effort by cleaning the homes of flood survivors. She also helped to restore the Washington County Fairgrounds by power washing, sanding, and painting buildings in preparation for the County Fair.

These are just a few examples of how volunteers have made a difference in our communities and made life better for many people. However, scattered throughout Nebraska is an army of volunteers who work in our fire departments and who serve as EMTs. Others serve in our schools and hospitals. The list goes on of those who sacrificially give of their time and resources to keep our communities safe, well, and moving forward. Without these volunteers our lives would be much more difficult, especially in rural Nebraska.

Thank you to all of you who volunteer your time and talents. It is truly amazing how much time and effort volunteers contribute throughout our state. In fact, I believe our volunteerism is something which sets Nebraska apart from other states and makes us such an attractive place to live and to raise a family. So, the next time you cross paths with a volunteer be sure to thank them for their service to the community, and if you know someone who stands out for their community service, consider nominating them for a ServeNebraska award by visiting their website at www.serve.nebraska.gov.

Straight Talk From Steve…
October 24th, 2019

Earlier this month I was in Lincoln for several hearings with the Legislature’s Rules Committee of which I am a member. This committee reviews the rules that the Legislature operates by. The purpose of the hearings was to gather input on possible rule changes and make a recommendation to the full Legislature.

The Rules Committee reviewed and took testimony on several possible rule changes, but one rule change in particular stood out to me. LR 217 was a Legislative Resolution introduced by Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha which contained the rule change I want to talk about today. Vargas’s proposed rule change would require that each new bill come with a racial impact statement. I’m still trying to figure out what value this kind of rule change would have for senators. So, here are some of the comments I made during the hearing.

Concerning Corrections, I asked Sen. Vargas, “If minorities don’t want a Corrections bill to impact them, shouldn’t they just not break the law?” Again, I asked Sen. Vargas, “So should we have two different types of laws: Those for minorities and those for not-minorities?” And, “Once we get the information, what determination do we make as to what law should we pass? The law is the law. If you don’t want to be affected, don’t break the law.”

We, as a country, have for a long time been dwelling on our differences. Every day we are inundated with reminders about these many differences. We hear about this group or that group and how they are different and how we need to bend our laws to accommodate this sector of our society or that group of people in the community. Whatever happened to the idea that we are all Americans? We may have come here in different ships, but we are all in the same boat now. We are all Americans!

Please don’t miss understand me. Discrimination is an unjust evil. But, discrimination will never be completely eradicated. The reason is that racism and discrimination are evils which reside in the hearts of people. Moreover, having a racial impact statement will never solve this particular problem. No amount of Legislation will ever change a person’s heart.

Herein lies the greater concern that I believe needs to be addressed. It is what the Bible calls a divided house. Jesus said in Matthew 12:25, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” So, unless we learn how to stand united, we will eventually fall as a nation.

The more we concentrate on our differences, the more divided we become as a society. We are a country that is becoming increasingly more and more divided every single day. So, instead of dwelling on our differences, shouldn’t we be rallying around what unites us as Americans? Our unity as a nation depends upon our shared American values, yet these values are the very things which get attacked every time we dwell on our differences.

Let me be clear, when equal justice under the law gets redefined to mean that the concerns of the few must be allowed to override the rights of all the citizens, such things as religious liberty, freedom of speech, and bearing arms, all suddenly become compromised. Yet, these are some of our most sacred shared American values that should bind us together in perfect unity.

So, let us be reminded today about what the American concept of equal justice under the law really means. The highest authority in our nation is not any person or any group, but a document called the Constitution, which we believe reflects those rights which God has bestowed upon all people. Therefore, equal justice under the law means that the rights of all must be upheld and protected against the special interests and concerns of the few. If we ever lose sight of this fundamental concept of American jurisprudence, we will most assuredly become a house divided.

God bless America!

Straight Talk From Steve…
October 18th, 2019

Today I would like to address a couple of subjects which have had a great economic impact on our State, especially in the Panhandle.

The irrigation tunnel collapse in July effected over 50,000 acres in Western Nebraska and has devastated a number of farms. I have been working with legislators in Wyoming and Nebraska and officials in the irrigation district to do everything possible to secure funding for the necessary repairs as well as maintenance on these tunnels.

Wyoming State Senator, Cheri Steinmetz, from Torrington has been very instrumental in securing funding on the Wyoming side for the Gering to Ft. Laramie-Goshen irrigation tunnel. Here in Nebraska, we need to do likewise. I have been working with our own State’s congressional delegation to encourage the Bureau of Reclamation to step up and pay for the repairs and the maintenance on the tunnel.

Those farmers affected by the interruption of the irrigation water have sustained great economic losses. It is estimated that those losses could be as high as $87 million. These folks stood by while their crops withered under the hot summer sun and there was nothing they could do about it.

Since mid-July there have been several hail storms in Western Nebraska. Some started near Mitchell and traveled all the way to Ogallala. Certain areas near Alliance endured as many as six hail storms this summer. It is likely that the economic losses from these hail storms and weather events will exceed those estimated by the canal collapse.

Just when we started to believe we were past the hail storms, and we could breathe freely again, a winter storm moved through the area bringing in a cold front, which dropped the temperatures down into the teens for several nights in a row. Temperatures so low have been devastating to the sugar beet crop which remains unharvested in the field. Because these sugar beets have been subjected to freezing temperatures, they will be very difficult to harvest and to store.

So, let us pray that those involved in agriculture can accomplish and complete their harvest.
This has been a very difficult year for agriculture in the State of Nebraska, but especially for folks in the Panhandle. When the farmers and ranchers suffer, everyone else suffers with them. Because agriculture is the engine which drives our State’s economy, the slogan rings true which says: “As goes agriculture, so goes Nebraska.”

So, let us all pull together to support each other and become stronger together! God bless you all!

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Straight Talk From Steve…
October 11th, 2019

The subject of elk seems to be following me wherever I go these days. For those of you who may not be aware of the problem, the elk population in the Panhandle has grown out of control in the last few years and they are causing a lot of damage to property.

My position has always been to manage the elk population through responsible hunting. Every year that I have been in office as a State Senator, for example, I have asked the Game & Parks Division to increase the number of elk tags for hunters. I have never once asked Game & Parks to issue depredation permits. Depredation permits allow landowners to thin out the elk herds on their land by shooting animals deemed to be a problem.

Unfortunately, the unfounded rumor has spread all across the State of Nebraska that I somehow leaned on the Game & Parks Division and pressed them to release depredation permits to landowners. I have done no such thing. This rumor is false. So today I would like to set the record straight.

The decision to issue depredation permits to a certain landowner in Morrill County was made by the Game & Parks Division on September 19. Eight days later, on September 27th, I sent aerial photographs of the property damage via email to the Game & Parks Division along with a request to give this particular landowner some “help” very soon. Now, I hope you can see that the word ‘help’ does not connote the words ‘depredation permits’. Had I been asked about the solution to the problem, I would have recommended increasing the number of elk tags, just as I have done every year that I have been in office.

The decision to issue depredation permits was entirely a decision made by the Game & Parks Division the day after their public hearing in Scottsbluff on September 18. The Game & Parks Division decided to issue depredation permits to this particular landowner on September 19. Below is a slightly edited version of the email response I received from the Game & Parks Division showing how they talked to the landowner shortly after the public hearing. I have edited the email only to remove names and personal information:

“Senator, We have attempted to contact Mr. — and offered via his wife to provide kill permits. Our local District Manager talked to him about depredation permits after the hearing last week. Please have him call — regarding issuance of kill permits, which we will provide. We will also be letting our staff in the area go to his place with kill permits and ready to shoot elk if he wants them allowed.”

Now, this whole scenario could have been avoided with proper elk management by the Game & Parks Division. Had the Game & Parks Division issued greater numbers of elk tags in the past, as I had urged them to do, the size of the elk herds never would have increased to the level of necessitating 50 depredation permits for a single landowner.

The lack of proper wildlife management by the Game & Parks Division has led to the kind of situation in the Panhandle where everyone has now lost. The landowners have lost because the elk have eaten their crops, destroyed their fences, and defecated on their hay. Meanwhile, the issuing of depredation permits means that hunters will lose their opportunity to pursue more of their game of choice.

While I cannot control where people get their news, I hope you will understand that I have never asked the Game & Parks Division to issue depredation permits. Please know that my solution to the elk problem has always been better elk management by the Game & Parks Division, especially through the issuing of more elk tags for hunters. While I have been wrongfully accused of politicizing the elk problem in Nebraska, the truth is that had I acted for political gain, I would have chosen to do nothing. This issue will only be resolved through a collaborative effort by everyone involved. Therefore, I am looking forward to resolving this problem collectively.

Finally, if you have concerns about the issuing of depredation permits, I encourage you to call the Game and Parks Division.

Straight Talk From Steve…
September 20th, 2019

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This week I would like to thank the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee for holding a public interim study hearing at the Harms Center in Scottsbluff on September 18.

Some of you may have seen an article that appeared recently in the Scottsbluff Star Herald regarding this hearing. First let me explain that, contrary to what was reported in the article, I am not a member of the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee. While I had every intention of attending this hearing, I was unable to attend due to a conflict I had with being the chairman of the Legislature’s Building Maintenance Committee. I had to be in Kearney, NE, not Lincoln, at the same time as this hearing.

Although I did not attend the hearing, I have spoken with many who testified. So, I would like to elaborate on some of the testimony from the Natural Resources Committee’s hearing which never made the papers. There were numerous landowners throughout the Panhandle who shared their stories about the damages and the lost revenue that wildlife have caused to their farming and ranching operations.

What was never reported were the thousands of dollars that wildlife have cost local farmers and ranchers living in Western Nebraska. Farmers and ranchers feed the wildlife which roam freely throughout our state. One landowner, for instance, shared how wildlife costs him over $100,000 per year in lost revenue. Other ranchers testified about how the carrying capacity of their ranches was cut in half because of the elk population. Still, other ranchers talked about how they lost livestock due to mountain lions, some even to the tune of over $20,000 per year.

Several folks from Sioux County came to speak in opposition to the Game and Parks Commission purchasing another 1,520 acres of land in their county. The State of Nebraska pays little or no restitution to farmers and ranchers who feed these animals which graze on private property. The director of Game and Parks told me that the majority of the people of Nebraska believe wildlife preservation is very important. I agree. But, the problem is that the majority of people who support these kinds of land acquisitions live in Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy counties in the eastern part of our state. These metropolitan folks never bother to ask the question about who has to feed all of the wildlife across our state and who has to pay for all of the property damages. If the majority of Nebraskans want wildlife preservation in our state, then doesn’t it just make sense for them to send us some money to feed and care for all of these animals? It is estimated that to feed the deer population state-wide on an annual basis costs landowners $60 million.

When a person buys property, one would think that it should be their property to do with as they wish. As was shared by many who testified at the hearing that is not the case, because wildlife are free to invade anyone’s property.

I am not against hunting or outdoor activities. Lest you think I am opposed to these activities, please know that that is not the case. So, as a side note, I ask you not to send emails or call or write letters to the editor like the one that the economic development people sent last week explaining or trying to explain how I didn’t know what I was talking about. I was right on the mark about the Nebraska tax incentive programs being a form of corporate welfare!

I understand their point of view, but I also understand how high property taxes make it all the more difficult for landowners to feed the wildlife of our state. If this was an issue in the metropolitan areas of our state, this problem would have been resolved a long time ago!

The article that appeared in the Scottsbluff Star Herald made it sound like the Natural Resources Committee’s hearing was non-eventful. That was not the case. Many landowners showed up to share their stories. We can no longer continue to ask these folks the bear the full burden of feeding these animals on a daily basis. Therefore, I will continue to press forward on this issue, to create more awareness of the problem, and to work towards a positive resolution. Thank you to all who took time to attend and who shared their story at the hearing.

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Straight Talk From Steve…
September 6th, 2019

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Back in January I introduced LB 612, a bill for highway memorial signs. This idea came to me from Allan Kreman, a resident of Bayard, as a way to honor his brother, Arlyn, who was struck and killed by a drunk driver a few years ago on highway 26.

While the bill never advanced out of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, I began working with the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) this year to implement a new highway memorial policy in lieu of my bill. Today I can proudly announce that NDOT has implemented a brand new highway memorial policy and I would like to tell you a little bit about it.

Immediate family members wishing to memorialize the death of a loved one as the result of a fatal traffic accident may now submit an application with NDOT. The application is available online at the department’s website or by downloading the pdf file at: dot.nebraska.gov/media/13535/ndot-roadside-memorial-policy.pdf. NDOT has yet to include an online payment method for collecting the $50 application fee.

As far as eligibility goes, there are two exceptions to the rule. Highway memorial signs will not be erected for those who were operating a motor vehicle and whose blood alcohol content level was equal to or exceeded the legal limit, nor will signs be erected for those who were found to be driving while impaired by the use of a recreational or illicit substance.

Each highway memorial sign will have a blue background with white lettering and will include the names of one or two deceased loved ones. In addition, each highway memorial sign will also include one of five traffic safety messages. These messages include: Please Drive Safely, Seat Belts Save Lives, Don’t Drink and Drive, Don’t Text and Drive, and Don’t Drive Impaired.
NDOT will make every effort to place these highway memorial signs at or near the requested locations with a few exceptions. Highway memorial signs cannot be placed within municipal boundaries nor can they be placed on Interstate highways or freeways.

Each sign will be posted for a one-year period along with the option to renew for another year. Personally, I would like to see NDOT extend the one-year period to two or more years, and I will continue to push for this change in the policy. However, once NDOT removes a sign, the applicant will have 30 days to retrieve and keep the sign at no extra charge.

Another bill that I introduced in January was LB 371, a bill to allow ATV’s to cross divided state highways. I continue to work with NDOT to create a workable policy for operating ATV’s on state roads and highways in our state. This issue is much more complex than highway memorial signs due to the changing demographics of our state. What is good for rural Nebraska doesn’t always work well in our state’s more populated regions. Nevertheless, I will continue to work with NDOT to find a workable solution for operating ATV’s on Nebraska’s roadways.

Straight Talk From Steve…
August 30th, 2019

Good News: The Gering to Ft. Laramie-Goshen irrigation tunnel that collapsed in Wyoming is now running water again! This is good news for farmers and ranchers in Western Nebraska who were affected by the sudden loss of these irrigation waters.

One thing governments love to do is to spend other people’s money, especially when it makes them feel good. Such is the case with Nebraska’s business incentive programs. Many people do not realize that Nebraska has welfare programs for businesses. So, today, I am going to tell you about some of these programs.

Last week a joint hearing was held between the Legislature’s Revenue Committee and the Appropriations Committee, of which I am a member, on the subject of these business incentive programs, or as I like to call them, business welfare programs, because that is what they really are. At the center of the debate was a report released by the Nebraska Department of Revenue called the “2018 Nebraska Tax Incentive Annual Report.” You can find the full report at the Department of Revenue’s website.

Perhaps the biggest business welfare program in our state has been the Nebraska Advantage Act, which was created nine years ago in order to keep Con Agra in our State. It didn’t work. Con Agra moved their headquarters to Chicago. This fact alone should convince even the most ardent supporter of these business incentive programs that they do not work. But, there is more.

The Nebraska Advantage Act has created $479 million in earned tax incentives, which businesses have yet to collect on. According to the Department of Revenue’s report, the Nebraska Advantage Act generated $2.6 billion in new qualifying investments and about 2,500 new full time jobs in 2018, each with an estimated annual wage of $46,874. However, the report also projected that by 2028 the cumulative losses from the program would be $1.5 billion, a number which has been confirmed by the government policy research group, Open Sky.

The Nebraska Advantage Act promotes a recipe for failure. It takes the State $121,000 in tax incentives to create a single $46,000 per year job. So, that job will never pay for itself. Simply ask yourself this question: How many years in paying taxes would it take for someone making $46,000 per year to contribute $121,000 in taxes?

The tax credits given to businesses under the Nebraska Advantage Act have hurt our local communities. In order to help you see this, consider how the sales tax reimbursement program effected the city of Sidney. The sales taxes withheld from Sidney over the course of a few short years totaled in excess of $8 million. To quote a member from the Nebraska Department of Revenue, “There is greater value to these incentive packages than one can quantify.” How does one manage that which cannot be measured? These programs are valued because of the way they make Legislators feel, not because they bring measurable economic prosperity to our local communities.

The Employment & Investment Growth Act has also proved to be disastrous for our State. Although the program has sunset, it continues to dole out incentives to businesses. The amount of tax incentives earned, but not collected on from that incentive program now totals $223 million. These two Acts combined have a total of more than $700 million in earned incentives not yet collected.

In 2018 businesses claimed $46.5 million in tax credits and refunds under the Employment & Investment Growth Act, even though there was no net increase in jobs created by the program for that year. Going forward, companies will continue to accrue more tax credits and refunds under this program, which was first enacted in back 1987. By 2025 the projected cumulative revenue losses to the state after factoring in economic growth will exceed $2 billion!

Earlier this year the Nebraska ImagiNE Act was introduced as a replacement for the Nebraska Advantage Act. If the Legislature passes the Nebraska ImagiNE Act, I believe many companies will figure out how to beat the system. They will reinvent themselves in order to make themselves eligible to take advantage of these tax incentive programs. In other words, the State will continue to give money to these businesses at the expense of the taxpayers, and this is why I refer to them as business welfare programs.

We cannot continue to give away billions of dollars in tax incentives when our property taxes and state spending are out of control. The Legislature continues to treat the symptom of high taxes and refuses to acknowledge the cause, which is spending too much!

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Straight Talk From Steve…
August 23rd, 2019

Irrigation tunnel repair

As the old saying goes, “When it rains, it pours!” And so has it been in the Nebraska Panhandle. Whether it be the Spring Blizzards, the irrigation tunnel collapse, or the recent hail storms, western Nebraska has been absolutely pummeled this year with precipitation and severe weather. Fortunately, some relief is now on the way.

Last week I toured the site of the Gering to Ft. Laramie-Goshen irrigation tunnel collapse with a representative from U.S. Senator, Ben Sasse’s office, Nebraska Secretary of State, Bob Evnen, and Assistant Secretary of State, Cindi Allen. After assessing the damage and seeing the loss of water to some 54,000 acres in western Nebraska, there was no question that something had to be done on the federal level.

So, last Thursday, Sen. Ben Sasse, Sen. Deb Fischer, and Congressman Adrian Smith, of Nebraska along with Wyoming Senators Mike Enzi, John Barrasso, and Congresswoman Liz Cheney wrote to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, asking him for crop insurance protection. Their letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture is what did the job.

The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture responded the very next day. On Friday the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, announced that the Gering to Fort Laramie-Goshen irrigation tunnel collapse was caused by unusually high precipitation in the area. Consequently, the Risk Management Agency determined that since the tunnel collapse was due to natural causes, crop insurance would cover all those agricultural producers affected by the disruption in the water supply. This is great news for farmers and ranchers in the affected area.

Western Nebraska has been hit very hard this year, and there remains still more work to be done. However, please know that your elected officials are all working hard to give you the relief you need. The last thing we need in western Nebraska is a string of more farmers and ranchers filing for bankruptcy.

So, today I want to express my gratitude to U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, and Congressman Adrian Smith as well as those politicians named above from Wyoming for doing the right thing and writing that letter. Because they advocated for farmers and ranchers in western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming who’ve been affected by this natural disaster, we should all be grateful. Most of all, though, I thank God for his providential care and for extending to us his generous hand of provision during this time of great need.

Sen. Steve Erdman

District 47
Room #12th Floor
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2616
Email: serdman@leg.ne.gov
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