"The last thing the people of Neb. want is another $400 million penal institution locking people up."
The corrections morass runs deep.
"I became really involved with this issue serving on the committee that started out just looking at Nikko Jenkins (committed spree killings after early release). Preventive action should have happened when he was bouncing from foster home to foster home and coming to school with a knife and a gun. At some point, you've got to break the chain, because if you don't there's going to be a tragedy. That's why I've been so active in juvenile justice. We have cut detention of kids by 50 percent. We found alternatives to detention that work.
"The more testimony we heard, the more the onion was peeled back, we decided we needed to expand the investigation into all of corrections. There were too many things happening. The problem is out of control and something dramatic is going to have to happen or we're going to have another incident, another riot, another person killed."
Krist bemoaned a lost opportunity with a justice reinvestment initiative council that pushed reforms. "We had a group of stakeholders around the table – senators, law enforcement officers, the attorney general, public defenders, judges – that worked very hard in conjunction with the Justice Center of the Council of State Governments trying to find solutions and looking forward to the kinds of changes that need to be made. When Heineman left office and Ricketts came in, there was a lack of attention to detail, lack of focus and no fidelity to where we were going.
"At a time when we most needed input from various levels, Ricketts disbanded the group, saying, 'We don't need you, we'll just handle all this stuff internally.' Well, he hasn't done a very good job of that."
In this heavily taxed state with lagging tax revenues, Krist proposes reforms.
"Business people don't believe giving away tax base is the way to grow our economy – and you can't keep giving things away and expect you're gong to build an economy. Look at what happened with Conagra. We gave them everything we could and as soon as that enticement was over, they left.
"Tax Incremental Financing is sometimes used effectively and sometimes misused. When you give away TIF and taxes, it affects the public education system. There are plenty of cities that have given their tax base away and seen their school districts go down."
He and Rickets both champion property tax relief. "As a state we've made decisions that have made us almost 100 percent reliant on property taxes to fund critical services, education. et cetera. We've got to stop that," Krist said. "We've also got to stop the escalation of the property tax assessment."
He said he advocates "controlling spending at the local level, controlling the levy process and most importantly the assessment process," adding, "I believe by looking at income tex, property tax, fees for services and corporate tax loopholes we can come to a consensus that's good for the state. We have to."
"We're close to looking just like Kansas," he said, referring to that state's epic budget crisis following failed economic reforms, "and that's not a model anybody wants to emulate.
"Is he ready for the rigors of an uphill race? "Physically, I'm ready for it. Mentally, I've had great training being in state government 10 years and knowing the state and being involved in all the standing committees. What am I going to do different? I'm going to listen to people about what they think isn't working. We're going to have those discussions. "I know there are some long days ahead. I get it, I'm up for it. I just want people to give me a chance to represent them. I promise there will be results."
Read more of Leo Adam Biga's work at leoadambiga.com.