COLUMBUS – Doug Oertwich is ready to start “somewhere” when it comes to reining in state spending and fighting for meaningful property and income tax reforms as he runs for the District 22 legislative seat this year.
“We’ve got to make some spending cuts,” said the rural Pilger farmer running for the seat held currently by Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus. Schumacher will leave office at the end of this year after serving two four-year terms.
“We didn’t get here overnight and we won’t get out of this situation overnight,” Oertwich said during a gathering of supporters at Dusters in Columbus on Tuesday evening. Gov. Pete Ricketts announced his support for the candidate while making brief remarks at the event.
Oertwich said the state’s No. 1 industry – agriculture – has been slumping for about four years. During his months on the campaign trail, the Stanton County farmer has knocked on about 725 Columbus doors during the last four months, the main topic with voters has been property taxes.
As a farmer, he knows the toll of climbing agricultural land valuations on farm incomes over the last few years. He backed Ricketts’ plan last year to value ag land based on its income potential, rather than comparable sales, a start on boosting a slumping industry.
The governor’s proposal, which also called for personal and corporate income tax reductions, failed to gain enough support among senators during this year’s session, but Ricketts vowed to continue pushing for tax reform in 2018.
Oertwich believes tax cuts can help grow the state economy, beyond just agriculture, by attracting new businesses and quality jobs.
He would pursue growing the economy through economic development programs that focus on job creation, a sturdy workforce and affordable housing.
Oertwich said he was just out visiting with TR (Tony Raimondo at Behlen Mfg. Co.) and was told the manufacturer could fill 100 good-paying jobs if the workers were available to fill them.
“I also know someone in town who is looking at putting in some apartments in Columbus,” Oertwich said. There is also a group in Leigh renovating homes in the village and flipping them for $100,000 to $150,000 to provide affordable housing for people to live and work locally.
“They’re on their third or fourth home,” Oertwich said.
The Stanton County man also played a role in an advisory board for the Costco/Lincoln Premium Poultry project in Fremont. That group work with Costco to develop the 414-acre site that will include a poultry-processing plant, hatchery and feed mill while advocating for Nebraska farmers who will raise the birds.
Oertwich said that facility will bring “good-paying jobs” to the area and provide a boost to Nebraska agriculture by buying the corn and soybeans needed for feed and contracting with 75 to 100 farmers to raise chickens.
Oertwich is opposed by Francis Kuehler, 59, of Humphrey, a 33-year Columbus firefighter.