Omaha World-Herald. January 16, 2022.
Editorial: Supporting tourism in Nebraska is good for everyone
The Nebraska Legislature and Governor Pete Ricketts have plenty of ideas for spending money in a state teeming with money.
Thanks in part to more than $1 billion in federal COVID-19 relief money, as well as unanticipated revenue from the state’s general fund and a large cash reserve, the governor and others are talking great things such as tax breaks, a new prison, investment in North Omaha and more. The debate on priorities will dominate the current legislative session.
Here’s a modest suggestion that we hope will not be lost: Nebraska should offer additional state support to promote tourism. This is one of the issues that we believe should garner bipartisan support, rural and urban, to move the state forward.
Tourism is the state’s third largest industry and benefits all Nebraskans, directly or indirectly. It injects money into the economy, strengthens our cities and helps support small businesses in our cities.
And more than that, tourism affirms the value of our state to residents and foreigners. It reminds Nebraskans of our hidden and less hidden gems – our good life. And for those just passing through our highways or visiting for a specific purpose, it’s an opportunity to surprise non-Nebraskans with what we have to offer.
We have no illusions that Nebraska’s natural assets and attractions can rival – in raw visitor numbers – the theme parks of Orlando, the Las Vegas Strip, or majestic national parks like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.
Many of us remember the fun that followed the self-deprecating state tourism campaign – “Nebraska. Honestly, it’s not for everyone” – which played on the reality that in national rankings, our state was somewhat, shall we say, underrated as a potential destination.
In fact, anyone who’s been paying attention—especially those who’ve participated in the state’s popular Nebraska Passport program—knows that our state has a lot to offer:
Natural beauty, like the Wildcat Hills south of Scottsbluff, Smith Falls near Valentine, or Ponca State Park overlooking the Missouri River in the northeast corner of the state.
Interesting companies like Buffalo Records in Kearney with its large collection of LP records, or the Koffie Knection cafe in South Sioux City, which, despite a name that’s a reviewer’s nightmare, serves great coffee and food in a nice frame.
Fun things to do, like paddle boating on the lake at Platte River State Park or the TreeRush Adventures ropes course in the Fontenelle Forest.
And many interesting restaurants, taverns, wineries and more throughout the state, from Bottle Rocket Brewing Co. in Seward to Tommy Gunz Bistro on Grand Island.
Each of these was highlighted among the 70 stops in Nebraska’s passport last year. The program’s digital app has logged nearly 200,000 visits to these sites, with visitors coming from all over Nebraska and 30 other states. It is a great success.
State policymakers can certainly find even more ways to boost tourism by promoting and enhancing Nebraska’s attractions.
In Iowa, for example, communities can compete for grants from the state’s Enhance Iowa Board to improve local attractions such as parks, swimming pools, sports facilities, or arts and civic centers. Last month, the council awarded nearly $5.2 million to 16 Iowa communities.
Whether or not it’s the best idea for Nebraska to boost our state’s tourism efforts, there’s no doubt the state benefits when our tourism industry is in full swing and our communities have the resources to shine. their attractions.
And the benefits are not limited to today’s tourist dollars. In the long run, any effort that boosts Nebraska’s image as a place to live is helpful, as it can help attract strangers and keep our own people from leaving.
Given the impact of the pandemic on our economy, including tourism, the state should identify and support innovative approaches to attract more visitors and their businesses to Nebraska.
The Lincoln Journal star. January 14, 2022.
Editorial: State of the State Strong Indeed, But Priorities Are Slightly Shifted
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan used a new word to describe the state of the union: “strong.”
This word has been repeated by his successors, creeping up to the state level, where governors use it every year to welcome a new generation of legislators and set legislative priorities.
Gov. Pete Ricketts was certainly right to use that adjective in his State of the State address on Thursday. That being said, the governor’s stated legislative priorities — tax relief, prisons, water, and COVID-19 relief — are critical topics.
However, on all but the last, the Governor’s approach slightly misses the mark.
Tax Relief: The Editorial Board’s objection here is not to the end goal but to the means. Inject hundreds of millions of dollars annually into the Property Tax Credit Fund on systemic issues plaguing Nebraska’s tax system while diminishing the incentives needed to do the heavy lifting required to get results.
Nebraska has some of the highest relative property taxes in the United States, but that’s largely because of an imbalance in how they’re levied. Inadequate public funding for K-12 schools is forcing local school boards – and landowners – to fulfill their constitutional obligation of universal public education. Increasing state support while decreasing the levy, as Senator Lynne Walz has proposed, would help tremendously.
Jails: We remain skeptical about the need for a new jail, but agree with the governor that “pursuing policies to reduce crime and recidivism” should not interfere with this debate.
With the most overcrowded prison system in the nation, Nebraska cannot sit idly by and let the status quo continue. Now that some progress has been made in staffing, structural improvements must follow.
Certainly, the Nebraska State Penitentiary is showing its age. And replacing a prison is a much better proposition than adding a new one to the fold, as Ricketts proposed last year.
Yet criminal justice reform is about more than just buildings, and reducing overcrowding will require changes to both the Capitol and county courthouses.
Water: Ricketts is absolutely right to highlight Nebraska’s water resources.
The Platte River not only fuels Nebraska’s economy, but provides Lincoln’s drinking water – and water levels have declined over the years. And Colorado’s explosive growth would increase demand on the river, but the devil really will be in the details of this proposed $500 million canal project.
And the biggest talking point — a proposed $200 million lake the size of Iowa’s Okoboji, located between Lincoln and Omaha — would in theory reduce the risk of flooding on the Platte, but it has so few details and so many question marks that it is difficult to address.
Copyright 2022 The Associated press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.