District 1 Legislative candidates ready to serve Southeast Nebraska

By Nikki McKim

District 1 candidates for State Legislature, Janet Palmtag of Nebraska City, Dennis Schaardt of Steinauer, and Julie Slama of Peru, primarily have one thing in common, and that is doing what’s best for the people of District 1.

Each candidate brings something different to the position and they all feel they are qualified to serve our district. 

Dennis Schaardt

Schaardt says his experience comes from being a leader in his community, “I have served on the Village Board 15 years and currently serve as Table Rock Fire Chief and have for the past 25 years. I currently serve as Pawnee County Commissioner Chairman and have the last six years. I have also served on many local clubs as chairman such as 4H, the Fair Board, Community Club, Men’s Club, and others,” said Schaardt. 

Julie Slama

Slama said her experience comes from serving in the position for the past 16 months, “Effectively serving District 1 as your state senator best qualifies me for this position. My bill passage rate is one of the highest in the Legislature, and I’ve fought for District 1 every step of the way- from holding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responsible for the mismanagement of the Missouri River to standing firm in support of rural economic development.”

Janet Palmtag

Palmtag said what qualifies her is her years in business, “I have been a small business owner and entrepreneur for decades in southeast Nebraska and understand business issues first-hand.  I know what it’s like to make payroll every month, pay property taxes, manage employees, recruit skilled workers, managing multi-state regulations.  Most importantly, I know the importance of continuing to build strong communities for our families. I earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and later while running two businesses and raising my family, I earned an MBA in e-commerce to advance my online business strategy.  I have never stopped educating myself and continue to learn through extensive e-commerce coursework and years of real estate and insurance studies.  I also earned my Private Airplane Pilot’s license and was recently granted a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. However, it is my years of experience running businesses and raising a family in Southeast Nebraska that have prepared me most to represent our region.  I have led 5,000 Nebraska Realtors as the President of the Nebraska Realtors Association. I served on the Nebraska Economic Development Commission and the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission. Other community involvement includes the Nebraska City Airport Authority and, most recently, the Nebraska City Veteran’s Memorial Building Renovation Project and the Brownville Concert Series.”

Property Tax

Property tax is a significant concern for District 1. Each candidate shared their thoughts on the issue. 

Dennis Schaardt on Property Tax

“First thing I would look at current unfunded mandates that cost the local entities tax money to take care of and work to change them. With school funding, the TEEOSA (Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act) needs to become fair for all kids in Nebraska. In other words, if urban schools get $5000 a kid our kids should get the same support.  It should not be based on the wealth of a district.  With that said, the three-legged stool, property, sales, and income taxes should be evened out so not to strictly rely on property taxes.  Possibly expanding the sales tax in some way,” said Schaardt.

Schaardt on Property Taxes

Slama said, “Achieving meaningful, long-term property tax relief is my top goal for promoting economic growth in Southeast Nebraska. Of course, saying that “Property taxes are too high,” is like saying “The sky is blue,” if there’s not a real solution proposed to address the issue. Nebraska’s property taxes are levied on the local level, not the state level. State government enumerates property tax powers to local entities, like Natural Resource Districts and school districts. Around 70 percent of your annual property tax bill goes towards K-12 education funding. In order to ease our region’s property tax burden, we must put our rural schools on a level playing field with urban school districts with state funding. TEEOSA, a formula which determines the overwhelming majority of state-level aid to K-12 education, gives hundreds of millions of dollars in state equalization aid each year to urban school districts in Omaha and Lincoln. On the other hand, TEEOSA forces rural school districts to lean almost entirely on local property taxes to keep their doors open, placing both our rural schools and local property taxpayers at a disadvantage. The majority of school districts in District 1 do not receive a dime of state equalization aid, which is unacceptable.”

“Twenty-Twenty’s property tax relief package, LB 1106, originally LB 974, effectively provides property tax relief while introducing state funding for every single school district in the state, along with reasonable spending growth controls. Personally, my hope is to see TEEOSA eventually replaced with a simpler, more equitable system for state-level K-12 funding, but LB 1106 is a realistic step in the right direction which provides over $300 million in property taxes relief. The Nebraska Legislature has made strong progress to provide property tax relief, most notably by adding $50 million to the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund in 2019 for a total of $275 million in direct, annual relief to our property taxpayers. However, it isn’t enough. District 1 has a representative who is willing to stand up for our taxpayers, our rural schools, and our students by fighting for property tax relief, and my record reflects an unwavering commitment to those

Values,” said Slama.

Palmtag on Property Taxes

Palmtag said, “Property taxes are out of control, and we have been struggling in southeast Nebraska for a long time.  Every year the Legislature claims they are going to address this issue.  There has been no true property tax relief for Nebraskans. Although we were hopeful last year, our appointed representative did nothing to reduce our property taxes.  She didn’t introduce a single bill to deliver property tax relief. It is what motivated me to run for office.  Tax relief must be prioritized and is critically needed.  I will prioritize property tax relief on day one. Spending must be addressed first and foremost.  By controlled spending, we can ensure the state meets its obligation to fund our local schools.  Year after year, the Legislature has passed along the heavy burden of education to local school districts.  These issues need to be resolved, and experienced, committed leadership is required to get this done. Significant property tax relief dedicated to ag land must be urgently voted in.  The food supply of our country depends on Nebraska agriculture, and the survival of our family farms are at risk absent of this.  We must help ag producers immediately.  Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, revenues for Nebraska will be much lower for an unknown period of time, so a responsible, three-year reduction in the taxable value of ag land property, should start retroactively for last year’s taxes that are due this year.”

Right now, we are all waiting to find out how to proceed during the current COVID-19 crisis. The candidates shared their feelings on reopening the economy during the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I sit on our county COVID-19 committee that meets weekly with daily updates.  I think we should have been doing more testing to better see how much we had in the area.  At this point, I think it’s time to get our economy going by letting things open back up, but by still taking precautions,” said Schaardt.

“At the current time, (Thursday, April 30) there are six confirmed cases in District 1, which covers 2,400 square miles. We currently fit the criteria for reopening our economy, and our small business owners and employees are excited to get back to work. We are not totally out of the woods for a potential COVID-19 outbreak, but the present circumstances and data show that the soft reopening of the economy is the right thing to do,” said Slama. 

“Our state has been very proactive in helping flatten the curve by starting mitigation early.  I feel lucky to live in Nebraska. Opening the economy carefully, strategically, and regionally makes sense as long as we have documented test sampling and steps are taken to continue to protect all citizens. Our food processing facilities need protective gear and separating devices equivalent to what healthcare workers would use for protection. We must protect our essential, front-line workers keeping our people alive and providing food for our nation during this pandemic. We must do everything possible to reduce the damage of a second or third wave,” said Palmtag

The candidates expressed what their top priorities would be if they are elected on May 12. 

Dennis Schaardt said, “There are a lot of issues from Property taxes, Prison issues in Tecumseh, Rural Broadband, School funding, Mental health, Covid19 but my top priority is creating a fair tax system for all, not just relying on property tax to fund everything local.” 

Julie Slama said, “My top goal while in office is to support policies to grow Southeast Nebraska. At the top of my list of priorities is to achieve property tax relief. Given that District 1 borders three states, each of which with property taxes that are a fraction of Nebraska’s, we must achieve substantial relief to have a competitive tax environment. My other priorities include fighting for better roads and internet access, improving funding for our rural schools, cutting taxes for our veterans, and standing tall for our values by supporting pro-life legislation and defending the Second Amendment.”

Janet Palmtag said, “Lowering our property taxes.  Period.”

Each candidate was asked to share some information they wanted Journal readers to know. 

Dennis Schaardt said, “I want everyone to know that I didn’t go to Lincoln to get fancy names for endorsements. I’m supported by the people of District 1 who I will be representing.”

Slama said, “It would be an honor to earn your vote in the May 12 primaries to continue effectively fighting the good fight for Southeast Nebraska.”

Palmtag said, “I was born here, raised here, educated here, raised a family here, and built businesses here in S.E. Nebraska. Those of you who have known me know that I’ll work tirelessly to improve rural Nebraska, work to keep crime and drugs out of our communities, and defend our second amendment rights.  If you have not met me yet, please know that I’ll be here in Southeast Nebraska for many years to come.  You will always know where to find me, and I’ll always be accountable to you. It’s most troubling to see and hear the multiple, misleading, negative campaign ads in the midst of this State and National emergency. It really calls into question the priorities, decision-making ability, and motives of those responsible for them. It’s what is terribly wrong with politics today. Now is the time when our people are trying to come together, and our lives and jobs are at mortal risk due to the pandemic. We will get through this together, united, and stronger in the end. Please vote for experience and positive change. Palmtag is for the people.”

The Nebraska primary election will be held on May 12, 2020. 

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