Nebraska City News-Press - Nebraska City, NE
  • State Sen. Bill Kintner shares laundry list of views

  • State senators Dan Watermeier (District 1) and Bill Kintner (District 2) co-hosted a town hall meeting in Nebraska City Jan. 6. Kintner, who is up for election, called for spending and tax cuts while criticizing social programs, early childhood education, "homosexual" bills and more.
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    • State Sen. Dan Watermeier stresses water issues
      State Senator Dan Watermeier (District 1) shared some legislative updates at a town hall meeting he co-hosted with State Sen. Bill Kintner (District 2) Jan. 6 at Morton-James PublicR...
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      State Sen. Dan Watermeier stresses water issues
      State Senator Dan Watermeier (District 1) shared some legislative updates at a town hall meeting he co-hosted with State Sen. Bill Kintner (District 2) Jan. 6 at Morton-James Public Library in Nebraska City.

      The southern and western parts of Nebraska City lie in Watermeier's district, which extends south to the Kansas border and west past Syracuse.

      Sen. Watermeier, who serves on the education committee, spoke on the support given education in the last session. He said a 5 percent funding increase to the university helped "lock in tuition." He said Peru State College also saw benefits.

      He said more work needs to be done on pension funds for educators but is pleased both sides are at the table to discuss the issue.

      "I'm proud we are putting education first," said Watermeier.

      Watermeier expressed support of early childhood education. He said oversight is important as well as studying the costs and benefits.

      Watermeier also commended the innovative campus in the works at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the university's focus on food and water research and programs.

      Watermeier served on the Water Policy Task Force, which he said recommended the state spend $50 million each year on projects related to water. "We need to save the Platte River for Lincoln and Omaha," he said, as well as manage water for recreation and agricultural purposes, among others, he said.

      Reservoirs and levees must be used to best manage water, Watermeier said. He cited the flooding in western Nebraska and how more of the flood waters needed to be saved.

      Watermeier said he would like to see water issues "come to the forefront and be funded" in upcoming sessions and that he hopes for support across party lines to "bring Nebraskans together" on the issue.

      He said a positive initiative has been imposing a tax to reduce water usage in the Republican River watershed.

      A member of the audience of about 50 expressed concern about state projects being done without due compensation to property owners.

      Watermeier agreed that imminent domain is a key issue and he wants to make sure projects are needed and property owners compensated. "It's a touchy subject, no doubt about it," he said.

      Looking ahead to issues the State Legislature is likely to address, Watermeier said that an overhaul of the juvenile justice system is needed to help reduce the number of people going to prison.

      "We need to help kids earlier. There are problems we can take care of here. ... The best investment is in younger kids, catch them before they become offenders." He said once youth enter correctional facilities, matters get worse as they are exposed to those who have committed worse crimes.

      Watermeier said members of the public have consistently expressed that property taxes are their main concern. But dealing with property taxes at the state level is difficult because local government has control over those rates, he said.

      Watermeier said it is important to look at the "big picture" when discussing taxes. "If you get into the weeds of specifics," it is not productive, he said.

      Watermeier said he is hopeful that early education can be "made attractive to parents" and be available for kids starting at age 3 if parents "choose to do it."

      Watermeier said that he believes that the state must help those who truly can't help themselves, such as the developmentally disabled. "We've neglected needs of those who really are in need," he said.

      Watermeier expressed support for infrastructure projects and said Nebraska is falling behind on roads projects.
  • State Senator Bill Kintner (District 2), whose seat is up for election this year, shared a brief outline of his views at a town hall meeting he co-hosted with District 1 State Senator Dan Watermeier at Morton-James Public Library in Nebraska City Jan. 6.
    Kintner's district includes northeast Nebraska City and areas north including Plattsmouth.
    Kintner, a member of the appropriations committee, said the state's budget increased spending 5.2 percent last session. He said more funds were spent on early childhood development and, because it was mandated, on special education.
    He said he opposed spending more on early childhood education programs because he is not convinced that "it works." He said parents are not preparing kids for school and early childhood education is doing "what parents ought to do." He said he is "not going to vote for any more money to that until I see if it works." He questioned if HeadStart had a lasting benefit for students beyond third grade.
    Other spending last session included renovation of the state historical museum and a 2.5 percent raise for state employees, said Kintner.
    Sen. Kintner said that tax receipts came in $70 million higher than anticipated and that, after $17 million was put "into the rainy day fund," the $53 million "windfall" was spent.
    "We spent it all, on social program after social program," he said. He said he objected to the spending, citing specifically a program that sends nurses into homes of newborns to assist parents.
    "They were intent on spending the money," said Kintner.
    Kintner said he objected to expanding the Nebraska Advantage Program to benefit wind energy companies. "We don't need it. We have excess power," but the extra power can be sold to other states, he said.
    "The only tax things we did were for companies, nothing for the working man," said Kintner. He said Nebraska has the 16th highest taxes and "we need to take a bite out of the apple each year" to reduce taxing.
    "We didn't cut anything away (last session), but continued to fund everything. We didn't unfund anything, which I would like to do," said Kintner.
    "I'm proud of the low cost of education and...the niches filled" by various education facilities in Nebraska, said Kintner. He said many educational opportunities from vocational programs to two- and four-year programs are offered.
    Sen. Kintner went on to state his views on issues and bills he said may come up next session. He said "the potential to do harm to our state is greater than benefitting it."
    Prison overcrowding and changes to the good time law will likely be addressed, said Kintner.
    He spoke of programs such as more intensive parole and better preparation of prisoners to get back into society. He said the $20 to $30 million price tag on such programs is high enough that it might be better to pay the $150 million for a new prison. "If we need more beds, we need more beds," he said. The key is to protect the public, he said.
    Page 2 of 3 - Sen. Kintner criticized the work of the tax modernization commission, saying that the result was merely recommending more study. "It wasn't aimed at lowering taxes, just shifting taxes around," he said.
    He said he wants to see income taxes reduced each year, especially taxes on retirement income, which are leading to many retirees leaving the state.
    Kintner said he opposes giving money to local entities "that they may not use to reduce property taxes."
    Members of the audience expressed concern about property taxes on agricultural land.
    Kintner said one option the state can look at is requiring property taxes to be lowered as property values go up. "There is no easy answer, but we can look at it," he said.
    Kintner said that expansion of Medicare is the number one issue coming up. "It can threaten all we do," he said. "It can cut into education, the economy...it can eat us alive."
    He also said "universal preschool" starting at age three is being "pushed" on the states since it is failing at the federal level. "It is a dream of social engineers to get their hands on our kids," he said. "Obama can't do that at the federal level, so is trying to get it at the state level.
    "The jury is still out on if early education even works," he said, adding he wants proof.
    Kintner also said some "homosexual bills" may come up in the next session. He said he opposes allowing gays to adopt or be foster parents. Children should be in homes with a mother and father he said, eliciting a smattering of applause from the audience. "The bill will get kicked out," he said.
    He also said he opposed approving legal benefits of "domestic partnerships" because every state that approved domestic partnerships went on to approve gay marriage, he said.
    Kintner went on to express objections to social programs that "keep growing and growing." He said people want to keep expanding who should be covered by social programs.
    Kintner objected to paying for the "bad behavior" of those on social programs. "We pay for their bad behavior." "Women — not men — can live a pretty good life" by making bad mistakes such as having more children, said Kintner.
    About minimum wage, Kintner said he is opposed to raising it because it "bumps up" everything else, such as other wages and costs of good and services. "Everything goes up," he said.
    Kintner also said that many making minimum wage don't do work deserving of more. "It's a training wage" and people move on to better paying jobs, he said. "It's not supposed to be a living wage," he said, adding that minimum wage jobs are meant to be a second income or for minors.
    Page 3 of 3 - He shared how his wife started off at a minimum wage job in high school but worked her way up to shift supervisor and higher then went to law school and now works at the governor's office.
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