Jim Pillen talks taxes, scholarships, and school choice at Pachyderm luncheon

Jim Pillen talks taxes, scholarships, and school choice at Pachyderm luncheon

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen was the guest speaker at Monday’s Pachyderm Luncheon, where he spoke on a handful of current events to a room of around 50-60 Omaha Republicans. Pillen announced that his time with the group was limited because he had a press conference with Attorney General Mike Hilgers immediately following the luncheon, where he and would discuss a lawsuit being filed against the State of California and the Biden administration over an electric vehicle mandate.

Jim Pillen

Pillen talked extensively about keeping kids in Nebraska, particularly through such things as the Regents Scholarship. These would offer tuition and financial assistance for students with qualifying ACT scores. “If you score a perfect 36, you get full tuition, full room and board, and a $5,000 stipend.” Pillen said.

Pillen also talked on the importance of community college and trade schools for future employment. “We’re roughly graduating 25 to 26,000 kids a year in the state of Nebraska from high school,” Pillen said. “Half of the kids are not getting a lick of further skill set development after that. … We just happen to build houses, we just happen to do welding. We have to get these kids in the trade school so they can be thriving we have thriving middle class community.”

Pillen also talked briefly about some of the disruptive anti-Israel protests happening on other college campuses around the country. “I don’t think we have near the challenges in Nebraska that we’ve recently seen on the coasts, but I think it’s important that we be proactive.” Pillen said. “We have the state patrol on standby, if anybody comes with a tent, before the stakes in the ground they’re going to get arrested.”

Property Taxes

At the top of everyone’s mind were property taxes. Pillen’s plan to cut property taxes in exchange for a sales tax hike (LB388) had failed to advance in the legislature this year, but he was now planning to have a special session to re-address the issue. “We are going to have transformative property tax reform in 2024, [and] we will have a special session.” Pillen said. “Just so everybody knows, 388 passed through the revenue committee 7-0. That doesn’t happen very often. There’s tremendous support bipartisan support.”

Gov. Pillen and state Sen. Merv Riepe, who he thanked for his help with passing income tax cuts in 2023.

I asked if Pillen were familiar with the EPIC Option, which would go further by eliminating property tax entirely, along with income and corporate taxes, and replace them with a broad-based sales tax. “I agree on the concept of the EPIC. I believe in the broad base, but I believe that doing away with everything else creates some extraordinary challenges,” Pillen said. He cited his previous tax proposals to lower the rate to 3.99% and remove the tax on social security income. He also suggested higher taxes on specific items such as cigarettes. “We rank number 42 out of 50 states taxing cigarettes,” Pillen said. “64 cents a pack. If we raise it to $1.64, that’d be $53 million for property tax relief.”

School choice and flipping seats

Pillen’s last question was on school choice, specifically the second ballot initiative being circulated to have it revoked. “It’s absurd,” Pillen said. “It’s a $10 million tax credit, off of $6.5 billion from revenue … it’s like $6,500 in your piggy bank, and you take $10 out.” His solution, however, was to flip more seats in the Nebraska legislature. “We have to get Carol blood’s seat to become red. Fremont’s seat has to become red. … and I think that we have a really, really good shot at making sure that Senator Day’s seat is flipped. Julia [Palzer] is here working her tail off, you know, don’t don’t count her out.”

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