Candidates in south-central Nebraska legislative race seek to ease reliance on property taxes

October 6, 2018

Voters in south-central Nebraska’s 38th district this year have a choice of who will represent them in the Legislature for the first time since 2006. In the two elections since, the candidate ran unopposed.

Dave Murman, a Republican, and Marsha Fangmeyer, a Democrat, are hoping to represent the U-shaped district that includes Clay, Franklin, Kearney, Nuckolls, Phelps and Webster Counties and part of rural Buffalo County.

In the officially nonpartisan May primary, the top two finishers advanced: Murman with 46 percent of the vote and Fangmeyer with 23 percent. The seat’s current occupant, John Kuehn, opted not to run for re-election.

Murman had outspent Fangmeyer $26,371 to $10,777 as of mid-June, according to Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission records. Murman also had more funds available — $3,924 to Fangmeyer’s $2,287. There are more than three Republicans for every Democrat in District 38, according to an analysis of a September voter registration report.

Property tax relief, and how the district’s public schools are funded, is a top priority for both candidates. Both say the district’s schools receive “little or no” funding from the state, which leaves a burden on property taxpayers. Both say that revenue collected starting in January from the new Internet sales tax should go toward property tax relief and that some sales tax exemptions should be reconsidered.

Fangmeyer said she would like a “long-term” solution, including a shift to relying on income tax and sales tax.

“The focus has to be on school districts because school funding is part of what pushes up the property taxes,” Fangmeyer said, “which is not good when you have corn prices down to $3 a bushel now.”

Murman said the only way to relieve property taxes is to cut spending. Some cattle ranchers from District 38 are renting or buying land across the border in Kansas, he said.

“Any source of revenue that is broader-based than property taxes, I would consider,” Murman said. “I definitely don’t want to increase the tax. It would be a shift.”

On Medicaid expansion, Murman said he’ll support whatever the voters decide on the ballot initiative on Nov 6.

But, he said, “If Medicaid expansion does pass, it’s going to be very difficult to find any other revenue to either decrease property tax or … even to maintain the services that we provide now with taxes.”

Fangmeyer said she supports Medicaid expansion. She told a story about an employee who turned down a raise in order to stay on Medicaid.

Both mentioned the need for economic development in rur al Nebraska, especially broadband Internet.

Murman, 65, is a dairy farmer from Glenvil. He has been involved in dairy organizations, including serving as president of the Nebraska State Dairy Association in 2008-09 and on the Nebraska Dairy Industry Development Board. He also served on the Sandy Creek School Board in the late ’90s and was briefly an emergency medical technician. He holds endorsements from the Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Cattlemen, Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., and the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Murman said Nebraska has many advantages, including a strong work ethic and Christian values.

“We have that potential to be competitive in the world market,” Murman said, “if we have good Internet service. Our businesses can compete with businesses anywhere in the world.”

Fangmeyer, 65, is an attorney from near Minden focusing on family law, general litigation and mediation. She was president of the Nebraska Bar Association in 2012-13. In 2016, she unsuccessfully ran for the Nebraska Board of Regents. She served on the Nebraska Certificate of Need Review Committee and the Nebraska Supreme Court Commission on Children in the Courts.

Fangmeyer holds endorsements from the Nebraska State Education Association, the Nebraska Farmers Union and the state chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

Fangmeyer grew up on a farm outside Deshler. The youngest of six, her mother died when she was 3. Three of Fangmeyer’s other siblings died before they were 2 because of a muscular disease.

Fangmeyer said she hopes to bring bipartisan cooperation to the Legislature.

“I get along with people,” Fangmeyer said. “I work with people. I do mediation. I’m looking forward to it.”

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