PERU, Neb. (KMTV) — Despite it being her first year in Lincoln, Julie Slama, a southeast Nebraska conservative, was outspoken last session and plans to be again on issues affecting rural Nebraskans.
She says those small town constituents will be paying close attention.
"If the legislature doesn't get anything done this year, I think the voters will make themselves heard at the ballot box in November 2020,” says Slama, who’s the youngest state senator in Nebraska history.
Senator Slama has her eye on a petition drive.
She says those farmers and ranchers are tired of inaction of the unicameral to reform the tax code and reduce property taxes.
"If the property tax debate fails for yet another year, you're going to see some rural senators, including myself very fired up and very frustrated with this process,” says Slama.
If passed, the petition drive would force the state to reduce property taxes by 35 percent, reducing state revenue by around one billion dollars. If that happens, it would be on the legislature to cut state services.
"We would have to raise taxes in other areas because there are things we can cut in our state government down to bare bones and there are certain things we can't,” says Slama.
So the senator from Peru is going to Lincoln next week to work to avoid the need of a petition drive. She supports the outlines of a revenue committee plan that would change the school funding formula, giving every district some amount of state aid, allowing the local governments to reduce taxes on ag land.
Eventually, lowering property taxes on residential homeowners as well.
"We're not going to undo four decades of property tax policy in one session, especially a 60 day session, so I think if we are going to make some positive progress in this session, it will have to be in a small measured step,” says Slama.
That's not all she wants to do. In her district sits the troubled Tecumseh State Prison.
"There are many ways that having the prison in Tecumseh has put Johnson County in a tough spot,” says Slama.
Right now, when there's a riot or other violent incidents at the prison, Johnson County is on the hook for over $225,000 in legal fees. Her bill would cut that in half, which she thinks would be crucial for the small county.
"Those kinds of liabilities are coming out of the rock budgets, they're coming out of school budgets, any other place where property taxes could be going in Johnson County would be going to those liabilities,” says Slama.
Senator Slama also will introduce a resolution that would re-prioritize flood control to the top of the Army Corps. Of Engineers list.
She then hopes other nearby states get on board as well.