Click below to learn more about Krystal’s platform for Nebraska and other issues that she champions.
Additional platform commentary will be added as questionnaires are received and answered by Krystal.
Cannabis is a stronger economic driver than 90% of all industries that are active in Colorado. Recreational marijuana created 18,005 full time jobs and added $2.4B to the state’s economy in 2016. Every dollar spent in Colorado’s cannabis industry generates between $2.13-$2.40 in economic activity like employee payroll and new construction that are outside of the cannabis industry.
Arizona state fiscal analysts projected in Proposition 205 (2016) that a 15% tax on recreation sales would generate $114M in NEW tax revenue in 2019 and 2020, implying a sales volume of more than $760M in just two years. Additionally, the state of Arizona projected to collect about $200M more a year in cannabis taxes, standard sales taxes, and licensing fees for cannabusinesses.
Another example: Nevada is expecting 41,000 more jobs and a $7.5B increase in total economic output in the first seven years just because the state legalized recreational cannabis and industrial hemp farming and manufacturing.
These state projections indicate that any money invested in cannabis is money well earned for all industries. It also shows that many Americans, even Nebraskans, want to earn a living and spend money in a state that welcomes the cannabis industry.
Now turn to Nebraska’s economic forecast for 2018 and beyond:
Our state lawmakers are facing a $1B budget shortfall because tax revenues are going to fall below the estimated expenses for the next two years. Reports say this shortfall is mainly because commodity prices and farm incomes have fallen sharply as agricultural property values have increased by nearly 164% in the past decade. Many farmers are making less but are being taxed more. And not surprisingly, this is the case for most workers across Nebraska.
Early in 2017 Gov. Ricketts’ tried to address our failing tax system. Ricketts proposed that the state no longer rely on land sale prices and property values and instead tax property on how much income it could potential produce. The bill fell six votes short and failed, as critics recognized that the tax package ultimately was going to give more than $458M in income tax relief to the wealthiest of Nebraskans and potentially increase taxes for some middle-income earners.
Now in mid-2017, Rickett’s newest tax-relief package includes cutting more than $150M from education and about $34M from disability services and likely more from other social programs since tax revenue was declared another $34M short in June. These essential cuts take place all while our Governor continues to neglect constituents’ demands to provide property tax relief. Beef ranchers are even stressing the negative impact high property taxes are having on the state’s largest industry.
Nebraska has the 5th highest property taxes in the U.S. Despite reports that say our property tax increases were the lowest (3.26%) in more than a decade in 2016, Nebraskans still are paying more for their property taxes and cutting elsewhere in their budget to make ends meet.
In addition to high property taxes, Nebraska’s unfair four bracket income tax system means our middle-class workers pay the same top tax rate as the highest earners. The Holdrege Area Chamber of Commerce is especially concerned that everyone earning under $30,000 annually are actually paying the top individual tax rates of all laborers, coming in at 6.84%. Nebraskans who earn $100,000 or more in income pay 7.81% in income taxes.
And more problematic is that more than 90% of all Nebraskan businesses pay income taxes at this individual rate of 6.84%. Our workers and entrepreneurs – farmers and ranchers included – are being demoralized by unfair corporate competition and relentless state and local tax increases. Some of these innovative individuals, nearly 8,000 Nebraska college graduates included, are choosing to build their careers and businesses anywhere but in Nebraska.
We must also consider the 30,000 Nebraskans who are reported as being unemployed in May 2017. These individuals do not contribute at all to our income tax bucket. I also suspect that the real unemployment number in Nebraska to be at least double the reported number, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics does not include those who are underemployed, who are looking for a job but do not collect unemployment, or who have stopped searching for a job altogether.
How does Nebraska make up for a slouching economy?
How does Nebraska keep its youth, working, and retiree populations from moving to states that have more opportunity and better economics?
Any population that leaves Nebraska means less income, sales, and property taxes to operate our state. I can guarantee that Nebraska’s population will be more stagnant in the next 5 years and produce less-than-expected tax revenues if we do not legalize cannabis and industrial hemp.
Modernizing our tax system so it is fairer to Nebraskans is only part of the solution. However, no re-distribution or adjustment to our three-legged tax stool will be enough. Thousands of Nebraskans want to stimulate our economy by adding a fourth leg to our current tax structure – cannabis and industrial hemp.
Five years ago in 2012, the U.S. industrial hemp industry was valued at an estimated $500M in annual retail sales. Popular Mechanics back in 1938 even touted hemp as “the new billion dollar crop”, meaning that more than 25,000 raw and manufactured goods can be produced from the plant (and all parts of the plant can be used).
Nebraska has the ideal climate, soil, and growing season to step in and become the world’s number one producer of hemp biofuel and biodiesel. Many countries like Canada are currently growing hemp for food and textiles, but little market competition exists for hemp as a biofuel. We have the workforce, land space, and financial need to grow and manufacture hemp into a sustainable commodity that not only boosts our state agriculture but also our tourism scene.
Nebraska attracted more than 20 million visitors in 2016. Think of how many tanks of fuel these tourists purchase for their vehicles as they passed through our state? Now imagine that we produce hemp at a fraction of the cost of corn, no longer have to deal with the Keystone XL headache, manufacture it into ethanol or straight biofuel and biodiesel, and sell sell sell it. Everyone will want our biofuel. Why? Because it is sustainable.
71% of Americans want more sustainable fuel options, but no one in the country has been able to do it yet without forcing the consumer to purchase a new vehicle, like a hybrid. Now Nebraska has the solution – our biofuel can go into existing personal vehicles, semi trucks, and farm machinery. More importantly, our hemp-based biofuel will be completely non-toxic.
Nebraska’s newly acquired $1B deficit should be a good enough reason to do more than just look at the lucrative cannabis industries growing all around us.
Cannabusiness is worth billions and will provide more jobs for residents who don’t have work, boost our already existing tourism, provide enough taxes to balance our state budget, divert enough funds to grow our communities and schools, and free up our prisons for violent offenders. Other states have demonstrated that integrating cannabis as a new tax source has the potential make big tax money and boost populations, exactly what we need to return Nebraska to a financially conservative and balanced state.
I will continue to support our local livestock and agriculture industry by introducing programs that support beginning farmers and ranchers.
In the past 20 years, Nebraska has lost at least 5,200 farms. The most current US Census data from 2012 says that the average age of an American farmer increased to 58.3 years old, with more older farmers retiring than new farmers entering agriculture. Statistically in Nebraska this means there are 5 times as many farm operators over 75 years old as there are under age 25.
And what I find to be more concerning, is that even more than 10 years ago, Nebraska was seeing an increase in top-earning farms – those with annual sales above $500,000 – and a rapid decline in all other farm sizes, including small farmers who earn just $2,500 a year. As lawmakers recognized back then, this shift in farm size indicates we are losing our middle-class farmers in this state.
We need to do better as lawmakers to keep our youth interested in agriculture. A healthy rural community is built the number of livestock and crop producers living and thriving in Nebraska.
In addition to beginning farmer/rancher programs, I will attract more farming to our state by expanding into the production of industrial hemp by licensed Nebraska producers (individuals, farmers, ranchers, and local/small businesses). I will also authorize the manufacture and sale of all hemp products in Nebraska.
Five years ago in 2012, the U.S. industrial hemp industry was valued at an estimated $500M in annual retail sales. Popular Mechanics back in 1938 even touted hemp as “the new billion dollar crop”, meaning that more than 25,000 raw and manufactured goods can be produced from the plant (and no part of the plant will be wasted, ever):
Hemp is the perfect crop because the seed can be planted in any of Nebraska soil types, including spent farm fields, and the crop will be ready for harvest in 12-14 weeks. For some producers, that can mean 2 or 3 hemp harvests a year in Nebraska!
In return, Nebraska has the ideal climate, soil, and growing season to step in in and become the world’s number one producer of hemp products, including biofuel and biodiesel. Many countries like Canada are currently growing hemp for food and textiles, but little market competition exists for hemp as a biofuel. We have the workforce, land space, and financial need to grow and manufacture hemp into a sustainable commodity that not only boosts our state agriculture but also our tourism scene.
When compared to other cash crops grown in the U.S., industrial hemp:
- Requires less water. A farmer in Kansas says hemp uses half the water of a wheat crop and provides four times the income.
- Amends soil quality. Farmers in Italy grow hemp to leach the toxic chemical dioxin from their pasture and farm lands.
- Resists pests naturally and outcompetes weeds for nutrients since it can be grown close together. More importantly, hemp naturally aerates with carbon dioxide to prepare the soil immediately for a food crop without leaving the land fallow.
In addition to leading in hemp biofuel, Nebraska could also be the main producers hemp-based paper.
Back in 1916, the USDA reported that 1 acre of industrial hemp produces as much paper as 4 acres of trees. Approximately 1 billion trees’ worth of paper are thrown away every year by Americans (680 pounds per household). Trees take decades to mature, while an entire field of hemp takes just 12-14 weeks.
More specifically Nebraska has a history of planting and preserving trees. One of Nebraska’s official nicknames is “The Tree Planter State”. I’d like to reinvest our ancestors’ efforts that originated Arbor Day in Nebraska back in 1895.
And, even though few numbers exist, I know paper is a major cost to our state government. A single EPA lab in Livermore, CA, cut its paper use in half and saved the federal government $17 million in 2016. Think of the potential savings if Nebraska’s government cut its paper use in half and used hemp-based paper that we produce right here in the state?
I will build a robust medical cannabis program to allow fair and safe access to purchase and/or grow medical-strength cannabis for in-state adult patients, child patients with guardian’s permission, and veterans via a medical card. Patients deserve to choose their treatment plan - whether that be prescription drugs or medical cannabis - and they have the right to have access to that treatment close to home.
This program will lightly tax retail marijuana purchases for consumers, but is meant primarily to curb Nebraska taxpayer’s public health costs for Medicare Part D, private insurance, and VA programs.
The Health Affairs Journal says that states that legalized medical marijuana laws saw overall reductions in Medicare program and enrollee spending of $165.2 million per year as of 2013. If medical marijuana was available in all 50 states in 2013, Medicare would have saved roughly $468 million that year, or 0.5% of the program’s total spending.
Specifically, the 17 states that had medical programs available in 2013 saw the following reductions in prescription doses:
- For SPASTICITY: The average physician in a state without medical marijuana prescribed 2068 doses, but in states with access to medical marijuana this fell by 20% to 1645 doses.
- For SEIZURES: The average physician in a state without medical marijuana prescribed 9368 doses, but in states with medical marijuana access this fell to 8029 doses.
- For PAIN: The annual average dose per physician was 31,810 doses in states without medical marijuana, but 28,166 in states with the option.
- For ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, NAUSEA, PSYCHOSIS, and SLEEP DISORDERS: All were prescribed between 8% and 13% less often in the 17 states that offered medical marijuana access when the analysis was performed.
The British Medical Journal states that in the US, opioid prescriptions for back pain in particular has increased, and opioids are now the most commonly prescribed drug class for pain. Alarmingly these researchers report that opioids do not seem to expedite return to work in injured workers or improve functional outcomes of acute back pain in primary care. For chronic back pain, systematic reviews find scant evidence that opioids are effective.
And even more alarming is that in summer 2017, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services received a $2 million grant from the federal government to respond to our opiate crisis. Despite this renewable grant, current lawmakers and medical practitioners underplay the severity of Nebraskans addicted to prescription opiates. Even the Nebraska insurer's chief medical officer claims that “Nebraska [has] a lesser prescribing rate for these opioids than other states do, so that is part of the reason we don’t have such a problem.” Nevertheless, opioid overdoses killed 54 people in Nebraska in 2015, and the rate of drug overdose deaths increased more than 20 percent over the past decade.
In addition to allowing access to medical cannabis for any medical condition, I will work for better access to health insurance and healthcare for all Nebraska residents whose needs are not currently being met.
I recognize that access to health insurance is difficult to obtain for many Nebraskans, especially those who are unemployed, become unemployed without notice, or do not qualify for Medicaid. So, let's face the facts: Rural communities, including most of Nebraska, have weak job markets that do NOT protect the workforce and have less generous social programs to help those who have less opportunity than others.
The University of Southern Maine indicates that as population density and proximity to cities decrease, rural uninsured rates increase. In the smallest and most remote areas (populations less than 2,500), the uninsured rate is 23%, compared to 19% in cities.
To expand health insurance coverage in Nebraska, lawmakers need to ensure that all companies - even small businesses, farms, and ranches - can affordably provide coverage for all employees and their own family. Small businesses in Nebraska face combined pressures of higher health insurance premiums and smaller operating margins, making it unrealistic for many to provide health insurance for their employees and sometimes even their own families.
In part, access to better insurance starts by growing jobs within the state that create access to better work for rural Nebraskans. Specifically I envision our state with several hemp refineries that will create thousands of jobs in the biomass conversion technology industry. With an improved economy, more jobs will be available with full insurance plans, and we will have a stronger population to support more rural healthcare facilities for citizens of all ages, genders, and treatment needs.
Lawmakers also need to revisit why only one insurer, Medica, is participating in Nebraska's ACA marketplace in 2018. A recent report says that Medica is proposing an average rate increase of 17%, upwards of 50% for some rates. This is all bad news for Nebraskans and means we need to take charge of our own healthcare and health insurance. We CAN take charge by electing in a transparent lawmaker who will work with you to find a solution for your healthcare, not just tell you what your government is giving you and you have to accept it.
(10/18 update) After speaking with tens of thousands constituents across Nebraska this past year, I understand more than ever that we, as a State, need to accept federal money to expand Medicaid. Unlike our current governor, I would readily accept Federal money to improve the lives of the poorest and sickest of our residents. I have seen the poverty across our state - and with our rural residents experiencing the most disadvantages in terms of healthcare access - I know that we need to take whatever support the Feds offer us. At the same time, however, I recognize that we need to balance our social safety nets in Nebraska. I believe we do this by building a strong workforce and economy that offers all workers more.
I want to re-emphasize here the importance of implementing a state-wide industry in industrial hemp and medical cannabis to improve our healthcare and insurance access. As seen in other states like Colorado, more than 18,000 jobs can be created within a state in just a year's time. That equals $2.4 billion in economic output in just one year. These are jobs for everyone. Nebraska as a state can do exactly the same thing - and with those thousands of good jobs will come Day-1 health insurance coverage that covers the needs you need covered. I will protect workers in Nebraska, not the big corporates that take our money elsewhere.
How is this possible? With good jobs built from within by Nebraskans - from the only industry that is proving to be booming right now in the world - comes good benefits, better pay, better lifestyles, and better health. And with a leader willing to work for you, we can get the laws fixed that put you in the ever-expanding coverage gap we are seeing across the state.