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Tax Relief Incumbent Hits the Campaign Trail

By J.L. Schmidt
Statehouse Correspondent

A day after his state's college football team whipped the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker whipped up enthusiasm for Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts' re-election bid.
Walker and the governors of Kentucky and Missouri joined Ricketts and more than 1,200 Republicans at a steak fry near Shelton, in the farm-rich and waterlogged Platte River Valley. One can assume that Walker's appearance wasn't the result of losing a bet on the football game. In case you didn't know, it has long been tradition that Nebraska governors "bet" steaks or Valentino's pizzas or Runzas or whatever against whatever popular commodity the opposing team's state has to tout.
Give Ricketts credit for not betting on this year's 3-3 Husker train wreck - or at least NOT letting us know if he is/has.
We also don't know if the Sunday afternoon appearance by Walker was part of a thank-you to Ricketts' parents whose political action committee gave Walker $5 million a while back for his failed campaign to become the Republican nominee for president. So, let's just trust that what he said about not preaching to the choir but being here "to get the choir to sing" is the real reason.
Still, there may be a broader message here if Ricketts brings in three Republican governors to sing his praises this early in a campaign for re-election where he faces no known Democratic candidate. In fact, the only known Ricketts challenge in the 2018 election will be State Senator Bob Krist of Omaha who has left the Republican party to file as an Independent to run for governor. Krist and Ricketts will not face-off in the May primary.
So, does the four-governor event represent a recognition that Republicans are concerned about their candidate? That doesn't seem likely in a state that hasn't had a Democrat governor since 1999. Was this an attempt to placate an agriculture sector that is becoming increasingly agitated about ever-increasing property taxes? That's a safe bet, especially in light of talk of a petition drive to get rural tax relief on the ballot.
What better setting than a farm with grain bins lined up in the background and a huge U.S. flag waving in front of the blue sky. Walker, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin and Missouri Governor Eric Greitens all weighed in to tell the crowd that Ricketts has been a great governor and earned re-election to a second term. The governors were all wearing blue jeans too. That's credibility - albeit cheesy - in rural areas.
Ricketts said he would continue to push for more and better jobs to keep Nebraska kids in Nebraska while shaping a more efficient and effective state government and pushing for property and income tax reduction. He touted his drive that he says has reduced the growth of government by 90 percent and his commitment to work for tax relief.
To his credit, he has led several agriculturally focused trade missions - what else does Nebraska have to export? - and has urged the Trump Administration to stick with several trade agreements it has threatened to rescind.
And of course, there's his so-called comprehensive tax relief package, which remains stalled in the Legislature. It offers property tax reduction for agriculture and some highly controversial proposals for income tax cuts. Property taxes are a bigger concern in rural Nebraska because of low agricultural commodity prices.
That same rural base is conservative and extremely Republican. Tradition says that a statewide candidate who can win the major cities along the Platte River can win it all. That's why it's important to tell these folks what they want to hear. For all of us, it's important that promises are kept.