Osborne calls for state unity

Friday, December 30, 2005
Republican gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne, with running mate Kate Witek, outlines key campaign goals during their stop in McCook on Thursday at AmFirst Bank. Osborne said his main priorities would be government efficiency, unity within the state, and implementing programs in schools that would stem the "brain drain" from Nebraska. (Lorri Sughroue/McCook Daily Gazette)

With running mate Kate Witek, State Auditor, at his side, Republican gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne said deep divisions within the state are one of his top concerns.

They addressed those and other key issues facing Nebraska at a press conference Thursday at AmFirst Bank in McCook.

"We can spend a lot of time suing each other, or we can come together as a state," said Osborne, who said he is making sure all Nebraskans are on equal footing with him by refusing campaign contributions from special interest groups and corporations and limiting contributions per individual to $1,000.

The definite split between urban and rural concerns is critical to resolve, he said, with senators from urban areas not familiar with issues facing the rural part of the state. Osborne said he would draw on his six years of congressional experience with federal programs and contacts on the national level in working out solutions for Nebraska.

Running against Dave Nabity and Gov. Dave Heinemann, Osborne said one of the basic issues in his campaign is trust, and asked that voters elect the candidate that would best demonstrate "leadership in crisis, rather than a candidate bent on furthering his political career.

"My first term will not be spent making plans for my second term," he said.

"I want to make the most contribution possible (to Nebraska) with the good years I have left," he explained, something he feels he can do better as a governor where he can "interact with all of the people of the state, not just one third."

In outlining his campaign priorities, Osborne emphasized that Nebraska must bring under control state spending, which has increased since 1987 on an average of 6.9 percent a year, with only a 2.5 percent economic growth.

"Instead of looking at tax cuts, we need to look at spending cuts," said his running mate Witek.

If elected, Osborne said he would remedy the escalating spending by implementing within the first 120 days in office a performance audit, where the private sector would be invited to work with state agencies and recommend objectives and standards. By using the recommendations, the government can then invest in programs that are working and cut back on those that don't, he said.

Osborne also sees unnecessary spending in Medicaid, which currently uses 17 percent of the state budget. Home health care should be utilized instead of nursing homes, he said, and by pooling resources with other small states, a more economical prescription drug program could be offered.

Substance abuse and its accompanying social costs is another issue Osborne wants to aggressively pursue.

Citing Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota as the top three states for underage drinking, Osborne would like to see a comprehensive approach that would combine stricter law enforcement with the education of children in the elementary grades, along with mentoring, as ways to cut costs and address the growing problem of addiction in the state.

With Nebraska's young people leaving the state in record numbers for better paying jobs, Osborne would like to reverse that trend by creating entrepreneurial training programs in junior and senior high schools.

The majority of students surveyed indicated that they would like to own their own business, and this training would encourage them to do that, he said.

"If kids have the training, they'll put it to good use," he believes.

Other campaign priorities Osborne discussed included the need of a venture capital fund to foster new business growth, and how bio science and agritourism could create alternative and viable job opportunities.

Osborne's campaign took him through the Western part of the state this week, with stops in Valentine, Chadron, Alliance and Sidney before coming to McCook.

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