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Don Walton

Socialism clearly has emerged as the sword that Republicans have decided to deploy in targeting Democrats in Nebraska in advance of the 2020 election.

"They want to see radical, socialist ideas implemented at every level of government," Gov. Pete Ricketts warned in a recent message sent to Lancaster County Republicans.

"Democrats seek to replace Sens. Mike Hilgers and Suzanne Geist with liberals who will fight against tax cuts, responsible budgets and pro-life legislation in the Legislature," the email message stated.

"They want to replace Congressman Jeff Fortenberry with a far-left progressive who will vote to impeach President Trump."

The message, sent to urge support for Jason Jackson in his quest to be selected as Republican county chairman, points to Legislative District 29 as a GOP target in 2020. Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln will be term-limited out of that legislative seat at the end of next year. 

"We need to take that seat back," Lancaster County Republicans were told.

Jackson is director of state government's Department of Administrative Services.

It's not the first time a DAS director has been politically engaged.

Carlos Castillo was Gov. Dave Heineman's campaign manager prior to being named DAS director and continued to be a trusted political adviser.

The message to Lancaster County Republicans is co-signed by a number of Republican leaders. 

"Democrats are fired up, they're engaged and they're keen on reversing the progress our state and our nation have made under Republican leadership," the message stated.

                                                ****

Puzzled.

Not sure where this legislative tax reform train is headed now.

All balls are in the air, the governor is engaged, and he has been sitting down with members of the Revenue Committee one by one.

The committee's 2019 plan relied on a sales tax rate increase, along with elimination of a bunch of sales tax exemptions and other tax changes, to finance substantial property tax relief. 

A tax rate increase, adamantly opposed by Ricketts, no longer is on Revenue Chairwoman Lou Ann Linehan's list of options.

It's hard to predict where the committee composed of four rural senators and four metropolitan Omaha senators is going to end up now. 

The committee essentially held together this year. Six of its eight members voted to send the heavily negotiated tax package to the floor; the other two committee members did not oppose that motion.

There may be a lot of bargaining ahead, with a new business development tax incentive program included as part of the negotiations.

Meanwhile, an army of legislative lobbyists is on high alert.

"The only feasible way to make a major cut to property taxes without raising tax rates or cutting core government services is to eliminate every possible sales tax exemption on consumer goods and services," Jim Vokal of the Platte Institute wrote online this past week.

"Yes, we have to at least talk about ending sales tax exemptions even for third rails like groceries and gasoline."

                                                    ****

Two headlines on the same day tell us a lot about where we are in our country today.

"CEO pay in last four decades grew 940.3 percent while average worker up 11.9 percent"

"Pharmacy to replace hardware store in Piedmont"

                                                     ****

Finishing up:

* Note to Sonny Perdue: The Nebraska State Fair is still open and has a week to go.

* Now that he's back in the real estate market again, do you suppose President Trump might try to sell California?

* The State Fair would seem to be an open opportunity for a presidential candidate to show up, walk the midway, drop in at ag exhibits and events, visit with farmers, demonstrate some interest in agriculture and do so next door to Iowa where those caucus voters live. 

* Sen. John McCollister is active on Twitter again with a series of tweets about immigration and climate change, including this: "Donald Trump and his acolytes have learned that immigrants make the perfect political punching bag."  And this: "Climate change deniers don't deserve a seat at the table" when reasonable attempts are made to address that challenge.

* UNL fall semester classes begin Monday; summer's gone.

* Nebraska-Colorado tickets on the 40-yard line are available online for just $627 each.  

* Yanks-Dodgers, that was fun; let's do it again. 

* And here come the Huskers.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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