Today, I had the privilege and opportunity to participate in a White House "Listening Session" with the Office of American Innovation. Along with five other state think tank leaders, I was asked to provide feedback to the White House on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis as well the needed recovery efforts.
Specifically, I was charged with talking about the impact from a rural state and the necessity of flexibility for the use of CARES Act funding.
My comments began by explaining to the group that we just came off one of the worst floods in the history of the Midwest. That recovery obviously isn't complete and our agriculture producers are coming off of the worst years in decades. Fast forward to the recent COVID-19 crisis, and our ethanol industry is experiencing significant price losses and reduced production capacity. The state's cattle, pork and poultry producers have seen operating losses of historic levels and from a commodity standpoint, prices are well below break-even.
In addition to the flood backdrop, I explained we have the 7th highest property tax rates in the country. I emphasized how critical it is to our resilience in this economic crisis that we are not put in the position of raising taxes. Because the CARES Act does not currently allow for states to use the federal funding to offset gaps from sales, income and occupation tax revenue losses, our taxes could get worse.
While this was an incredible professional opportunity, it was an even bigger opportunity for me to advocate on behalf of rural and urban communities and taxpayers across Nebraska.