Candidate responses are posted exactly as we received them and have not been edited.
Pete Ricketts (Incumbent)
Political Party: Republican
Running Mate: Mike Foley
Hometown: Omaha, NE
Current City: Omaha and Lincoln
Political Party: Democrat
Hometown: Omaha, NE
Current City: Omaha, NE
Running Mate: Lynne Walz
Previous work experience:
Krist: Nebraska State Senator, District 10, (2009-Present)
United States Air Force (1979-2000), Retired as Lt. Colonel.
Contract Manager, Army Corps of Engineers.Former President, Madonna School in Omaha.
Ricketts: Governor of the State of Nebraska; Founder, Drakon, LLC; Senior Vice President of Strategy and Business Development, Senior Vice President of Product Development, Senior Vice President of Marketing, President, and Chief Operating Officer, Ameritrade
Krist: I have been married to my wife Peggy since 1980. Together we have two children, Justin and Courtney, and one grandchild, Lucas.
Courtney has special needs, and she has taught me more about compassion and care for one another than anyone I have ever known.
Ricketts: I was born in Nebraska City and raised in Omaha with my sister and two brothers. My wife, Susanne, and I have three kids, Roscoe, Margot, and Eleanor.
What was your very first job?
Krist: My very first job was delivering newspapers on a paper route.
Ricketts: I had a paper route and worked at Burger King in Omaha.
What life achievements are you most proud of?
Krist: My life of service to my country and my state. I served for 21 years in the Air force and 10 years in the Nebraska Legislature.
Ricketts: My family. I am very proud of both my wife and my kids.
What would be the first thing you do once elected?
Krist: I would immediately meet with lawmakers and work towards a consensus approach to property taxes and education funding.
Ricketts: My top priority will continue to be property tax relief. I've introduced significant property tax relief plans every year, and we've grown the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund by more than 60 percent, providing $840 million in direct property tax relief in my first term. Building on that work and passing additional property tax relief will be my first priority of my second term.
Why should voters choose you in this election?
Krist: I am running for Governor because there is a lack of leadership from the current administration. On issue after issue, from property tax reform to health care to corrections, the incumbent Governor has failed to address the problems facing Nebraskans, instead focusing on his wealthy donors and political connections. I will restore leadership to the Governor office.
Ricketts: The people of Nebraska elected me to put my experience to work making state government run more like a business, and we have. We've cut the growth of state spending by over 90 percent while investing in priorities like property tax relief, education, child welfare, and public safety. We're making government more efficient and effective, enabling us to do more with less. Most importantly, we're growing our economy, leading the nation in economic development projects per capita for two years in a row. We're getting the job done, helping our families live the Good Life. We're just getting started, and I'd be honored to have Nebraskans' vote of confidence for four more years.
The responses from the candidates below have been transcribed from our on-camera interview.
We've heard from Nebraskans property taxes are too high. Should something be done? If so what is your plan?
Ricketts: Absolutely, property taxes is the number one issue I've been working on since I've been governor. I've introduced, I've worked with the legislature to introduce every year legislation on how we can address property taxes. We've increased the property tax credit relief fund by over 60 percent. The last two years the bills that I've worked with the legislature to introduce have been stalled in the legislature on a filibuster. The most recent bill this year would've been a 20 percent rebate on your property taxes and I thought it was a great bill. But, we're going to continue to work with the legislature to see how we can make that happen for our working Nebraska families. We are going to continue to look at some of the ideas we looked at the past like going to an income potential assessment for how we value ag land that would be more fair to our farmers and ranchers than the current system because it would tie those property tax evaluations, which you can actually earn of that land. Other ideas we are going to take a look at are going to be involved again, I think we should go back to this idea of a rebate back from the State. We are going to continue to make our commitment to property tax credit relief fund. And I know there are other senators out there right now that are looking at some of the changes maybe to the school aid formula.
Krist: Oh, certainly. In our travels around the State, Senator Walz (and I) have heard no uncertain terms that property taxes are out of control. And of course, you can't talk about re-balancing taxes and property tax in general. Unless you can specifically talk about how we fund education. The two are tied together. So what we, what I know, having been in the legislature for 10 years is identifying the problem to fix the problem. We started as a State not funding education properly and in about the 2009, 2010 time frame we took away about 20 percent of the income tax that was going towards education, we appropriated it in anther way. We then took away special education funding or decreased it about 50 percent. And then in 2011 we took away the aid to counties. So, those three things are what I like to call a perfect storm, property taxes. Prioritizing where that money is going to and making sure that it goes back will take the burden off of the property tax part. So, that is key for our administration when we become governor and lieutenant governor.
Education funding is heavily tied to property taxes in Nebraska. How would your plan impact education funding?
Ricketts: Well, the State of Nebraska has made a significant commitment to education. Almost 1/3 of our budget goes to funding K-12 schools and if you look at this last budget we had to constrain our spending and our budget only grew to 0.5 percent or 1/2 a percent. Our funding for K-12 education went up by more than four times that. So the State is continuing to make that commitment to funding education and there are ways we can take a look at changing that school aid formula to make it more fair. For example, make sure that every child gets some dollars out of that school aid formula would be one way able to do that.
Krist: Well, education funding K-12 and higher education has been cut substantially in the last few years. Under the current administration um, our college students are now paying the university college students are now paying about 35 hundred dollars more on a four year curriculum, because of those cuts that Governor Ricketts has put into place. I believe that, my plan, our plan, will to be to re-prioritize, the appropriations process, put that money back so that its properly funding education. Stop the unusual elimination of curriculum in the university system, in the State college systems and re-prioritize whats important to the people in Nebraska and that is quality education. Also workforce development, I think we d-emphasized that process. We have community colleges that have programs in place, last two years of the dual credit program with high schools and community colleges. So, that's all part of that process of refunding and making sure that the education is funded correctly. When you, my terminology I think in the last, at least the last four years, there seems to be a priority being put on the wealthiest and on the corporate structures and not on the priorities of the State, which are obviously our education and agriculture.
If Nebraska Voters pass the Medicaid Expansion ballot measure, how would you fund the State's portion?
Ricketts: Well, if voters vote to expand Medicaid then we're gonna have to make that fit within the budget, which means everybody else who is getting money from the State government is gonna get less. Well, I mean that'll obviously be up to the voters to decide on Medicaid expansion but everyone needs to understand this is gonna be a potentially 80 million or 100 million dollar bill when this gets fully phased in. And, that means it's gonna be less money for K-12 education, higher education, roads, property tax relief, all those things because we're gonna have to make it fit into the budget.
Krist: Well, the way that you asked the question is indicative of what the misgiving is across the State and I think the lack of education. So the first thing we need to realize is that, it's not the State's portion that is critical to this process, it is the federal funds that are critical. Bringing in 90 cents on the dollar to fund programs for 90,000 people who are currently uninsured and 30,000 of those are my fellow veterans. So the proper balance of funding coming back into the State and those 90 cents on the dollar, those areas we are right now funding with 100 pennies on the dollar. The better question is, what can't we do, how many services can't we put out there? And there will still be a limit. Remember that Medicaid expansion has a qualification. Medicaid itself has a qualification. You have to have financial qualification or disability qualification. So it's not as if it's not going to be rampant, and the State is going to incur a lot of debt. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have carefully managed and are participating in Medicaid expansion. And, misnomer, or I guess the untruthfulness of how opponents would attack this, is that the State will then put itself into bankruptcy and that is entirely nonsense.
Would you support state legalization legalizing medical marijuana? Explain your answer.
Ricketts: No, I've been against legalizing medical marijuana other than going through the process we have through the FDA which is what every other drug goes through. And we actually have seen drugs that are based on marijuana recently this year get legalized. And that's the process we'd need to go through because we need to make sure drugs are safe and effective for what diseases, and what you know measurements and so forth. And that's the proper way to make sure we are protecting the public safety. I know some families out there are really struggling, the process does take awhile but this is what we have to do to make sure we protect the public safety. And as I said, we are seeing progress on this and in fact the state of Nebraska has actually helped fund research that got us to the point where we are seeing some of these drugs now being legalized.
Krist: Medical cannabis is right on top of my list. I've dealt with both Medicaid expansion issue and medical cannabis in the 10 years I have been in the legislature, several times. Medical cannabis is important for people who right now are using an opioid, a narcotic, to manage pain. And we have an opioid epidemic in this country that needs to be fought, and medical cannabis is part of the answer to that issue. In addition, having a special needs child and being around people with special needs I can tell you that we don't need to study it anymore. Medical cannabis does indeed control some of the seizure actives of people with special needs. And I think it's, in talking about it and through it in the legislative process, there are still some issues to deal with efficacy, dosages, distribution but other states have set a standard and I think we can take a couple of those standards and conform them with our Nebraska constitution and our current statues. And, do very well in terms of implementing medical cannabis throughout the state.
More than 40 states include texting while driving as a primary offense. (It's currently a secondary offense in Nebraska.) Should it be a primary offense in Nebraska? Why or why not?
Ricketts: Well, certainly we don't want to have people texting while they are driving because that's a distraction. And I've seen some data that shows it can be as bad as drinking and driving. With regard to any hypothetical bill we would have to see what's actually in the bill before I know whether I'd support it or not.
Krist: Yes, I have, I think in total I introduced four bills, including one last year that dealt with that measure in the legislature. That bill, those four bills never made it out of the transportation committee. As governor I would encourage the legislature to get a bill to my desk that is upmost important and providing for the safety of the people in the state. Texting and driving is dangerous. It is deadly. And the only way we are going to curb that activity is to indeed make it illegal. Other of my bills, and actually last year's bill would have also made it mandatory for all occupants in a vehicle to wear seat-belts. And as you know, the only people that are supposed to be, currently wearing a seat-belt are the people in the front seat of the vehicle. Which I find ridiculous. People in the back seat as well need to wear a seat-belt. There are many arguments why not. None of them, none of them, have anything to do with health, and safety, and welfare of the people who are in the vehicle. The argument for is the safety issue, and I would ask the legislature to get something to my desk as soon as possible.
Should there be a policy prohibiting alcohol use during the work day for elected officials?
Ricketts: Well, I think just in general, common sense should tell you that it's bad policy to be using alcohol during the work day. And we do have rules already that you can't show up impaired. If we want to strengthen those again, it would hypothetically, I would have to see what is in the bill, but absolutely should be sending the message that it's not appropriate to be using alcohol and then coming back into the work place.
Krist: I think we dealt with that issue, I think those videos were ridiculous. They show me participating in a conversation, not drinking. I think that if they want to make it an issue out of drinking as I said many times, I've spent my life in and out of the cockpit, in and out of war zones and not drinking for months, days and months and actually years. So, I have no problem with alcohol. And, they made a lot out of this issue. I will say this, when I look around politically today, particularly in the environment that we're in with all these commercials out here I see that the Republican Party and you name them as the source for attack on me and on my family. They seem to be the ones that are very intent on destroying people's characters and attacking the person rather than talking about the subject matter that we should be talking about which is the people of Nebraska and the topics that are important to them. There's actually a policy in the state capital that there's not supposed to be any alcoholic beverages in someone's office. I've always adhered to that the entire time. I've been there and I suggested that many times the bottom right hand drawer or left hand drawer contains something that even our current representatives have looked around the issues or the policy of having any alcohol. I don't have any problem with no alcohol during the normal work day or in a public place. Actually, again the capitol is very restrictive on having alcoholic beverages within, you have to have a permit in order to have an event. So I would support it.
Any final comments/message to voters?
Ricketts: Well, we are working on growing Nebraska and we are getting the job done. We've received the Governors Cup two years in a row for the most economic development projects. We are the number one state for fiscal stability. We are growing our state, creating more job opportunities for the first time ever. For the last three years we've maintained over a million non-farm jobs, we've got the third highest wage growth in any state in the country. For the last three or four years, we've got the fifth lowest unemployment rate. We've got a lot of economic growth in our state, we want to continue to build upon that in my next four years.
Krist: Yeah, I think this year is very important because there are some topics that leadership you will elect, and by you I mean the entire state, particularly the governor. That governor will be in place during redistricting. I sat through redistricting, I participated in that process, many years ago. And there was a lot of manipulation and gerrymandering that went on. So make sure that the person that you vote for has the record and integrity to make sure that the party structure is not part of the redistricting process. I also think that people truly need to understand that there is a difference between the way I do business and the way the current governor does business. I have always been a person who tries to build consensus, tries to bring people into the conversation. I like to say people who have been there, done that, worn that t-shirt, so we have all the data we need to make good decisions. While this governor has lacked out that discussion process. So, I think you genuinely have a choice this year. A choice between Governor Ricketts and Senator Krist, and I hope you vote for the latter.