Republican Pete Ricketts and Democrat Chuck Hassebrook talked issues, but also got personal during the gubernatorial debate at the State Fair in Grand Island.
Issues included prison reform, Medicaid expansion, and minimum wage.
Both Hassebrook and Ricketts endorsed using alternative incarceration programs, such as drug courts, to reduce the state prison population. Hassebrook, though, stated he would not take building a new prison off the table. Ricketts said it wasn’t time to build a new prison.
Ricketts rejected expanding Medicaid, following the example of Gov. Dave Heineman, a fellow Republican. Ricketts expressed concern the federal government wouldn’t fulfill its promise to pay 90% of the tab of expansion. Hassebrook accused Ricketts of putting partisan politics ahead of common sense, insisting the state has forfeited $2 million in federal funding its hospitals could use to cover the working-poor.
Hassebrook endorsed the proposed increase to the state minimum wage, which voters will decide in November. Ricketts insisted there are better ways to increase the wages of working Nebraskans, including worker training.
The debate turned personal when Hassebrook accused Ricketts’ father of funneling money to third party groups to run ads against Hassebrook.
Ricketts said it is all part of the record.
“Actually, this is all public disclosure and I’m sure if Chuck had found something he would be happy to share with you all,” Ricketts stated.
“No, it’s not all public disclosure,” Hassebrook quickly countered.
Hassebrook pointed out third party groups do not have to disclose their contributors.
“It may be that your father’s laundering the money by giving some of his millions elsewhere and having someone else contribute to your race,” Hassebrook said. “But, I think it strains credibility to say that your Dad would spend $4 million on two races in Michigan and Georgia, but with his own son running in Nebraska, take a walk.”
Both Ricketts and Hassebrook claimed they would seek to lower property tax rates. Hassebrook added he would not promote a “risky” tax scheme, make a reference to Gov. Heineman’s proposal to scrap the state income tax in exchange for ending numerous sales tax exemptions. Ricketts denied Hassebrook’s claim that he endorsed the plan, stating the proposal was flawed in a couple of ways.
The Omaha World-Herald sponsored the debate.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]