By Daniel Thompson

Bruning brings campaign to Kimball


Daniel Thompson

Attorney General Jon Bruning speaks with Sheriff Harry Gillway at the Diner during his stop in Kimball March 13.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, has thrown his hat in the ring in a late bid in the Republican race to become the next governor of the state of Nebraska.

Bruning, who has served as the attorney general for the last 12 years, spent time last week campaigning throughout the panhandle, stopping in Kimball, Sidney, Scottsbluff and various other cities to sit down with small crowds and discuss the current issues facing Nebraskans and how he can serve to offer solutions.

One of the key issues at the heart of Bruning's campaign is the continued fight and challenging of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, which he believes is putting unnecessary financial stress on Nebraska residents.

"I obviously led the lawsuit to stop Obamacare. We took it all the way to the Supreme Court. We lost the overall effort to stop the law, but we won a significant piece that allows each state to decide whether or not to expand Medicaid. The reason that matters is Nebraska has always been a state where we balance our budget. We don't spend what we don't have," Bruning said.

According to Bruning, the logic behind the fight against Medicaid expansion was to protect Nebraskans already receiving Medicaid from potentially receiving less financial aid and to keep from cutting funds from other parts of the state's budget in order to accommodate the expansion under the previous requirements of the law.

"The current recipients of Medicaid are going to get less. What do you wanna do, because budgeting is about prioritization, about making tough choices. So the lawsuit I filed against Obamacare was designed to help protect the state's ability to balance its budget. That Medicaid expansion was a significant part of why we filed the lawsuit, and we won that piece," Bruning said.

Bruning was also cautious of the Medicaid expansion aspect of the ACA from the start stating that it could cost Nebraskans $250 million over ten years, assuming that the federal government keeps its promise to pay 90 percent.

"Now, this is a federal government with 17 trillion dollars of debt, and in special ed, they agreed to pay 40 percent and instead they're paying 18 percent. So they've not honored their promise in the past. Why do we think they're going to honor their promise with regard to Medicaid and Medicaid expansion. We're proud of our state here in Nebraska and rightly so. We're well run. We need to be able to balance our budget," Bruning said.

Bruning also takes a hard stance against illegal immigration, believing that illegal immigrants do not deserve any state benefits and those who do receive benefits illegally are doing so to the detriment of the state's taxpayers.

"The problem is we have illegal immigrants accessing state benefits. The Governor and I pushed a bill that was passed that would deny emergency benefits to illegal immigrants. There were hundreds of them accessing state unemployment that weren't legal citizens. You have hard working tax payers and unemployment is there for them if they have a time in their life when they need it. It's not for illegal immigrants," Bruning said.

Concerning the current issues of marriage that have recently been in the news with many states fighting for marriage equality, Bruning is a strong supporter of traditional marriage and traditional families.

"That is just my personal belief and my religious belief. But I care about everyone. I mean, we're all God's children, and I care about my fellow citizens and my fellow Nebraskans as as far as who they are as individuals. I care about them and love everyone, but I think that the institution of marriage is for a man and a woman. It's for the perpetuation of families," Bruning said.

However, Bruning is also currently considering solutions for other, less talked about problems such as prison overcrowding, which he believes has been blown out of proportion in the media.

Nebraska prisons currently sit at 153 percent capacity, with nearly 4,900 inmates in a system that is only meant to hold approximately 3,175 inmates. However, Bruning argues that the situation is not as dire as it appears.

"The prisons function pretty well at about 125 percent or 130 percent of capacity. It's almost like imagine a three bedroom house and you got mom and dad and three kids and two kids are sharing a room, that's not over crowded. Just because it's a three bedroom house doesn't mean you can only have one kid in each room. It's the same thing with a prison," Bruning said.

Bruning believes that the current situation in Nebraska prisons can be alleviated through using the resources that we have, stating that building a new prison is unnecessary for the time being.

"We're going to work in that capacity. In Tecumseh, for example, we have 80 cells that we're converting from one person to two people. It's two guys in a cell that's the size of [the south side room in the Diner]. But that's not overcrowding. If you don't like it, don't get sent to prison. Prison's not meant to be pleasant, but I would say it's not awful, either, to have two people in a cell," Bruning said.

He also states that it is a "misnomer" to say that the state incarcerates too many people each year.

"We incarcerate about 1/4 of one percent. So you imagine 1.8 million people, about 18,000 one percent, 4,500 a quarter of a percent. If you look at our neighboring states, Missouri's at half a percent. Iowa's at a third of a percent. Kansas is at 4/10 of a percent. We're incarcerating fewer people than our neighboring states so it's a myth to say we're dropping the hammer on guys that don't deserve it. It just doesn't happen in Nebraska," Bruning said.

Bruning's belief of using the materials given and doubling up on cells in various facilities also stems from making sure that financial breaks will be available for law abiding, hard working citizens instead of going to unnecessary projects.

"Use what we've got. If I was given a choice of tax relief for hardworking Nebraskans or building a new prison, it's an easy choice. I would choose tax relief. It's that simple. We've got a lot of people that are working very hard and to reduce the tax burden on those people is a far more preferable choice," Bruning said.

When talking about prison reform, Bruning also backs the "earned time" proposal in the legislature which would force inmates to earn good time instead of receiving good time automatically as they do under the current law.

"Earned time has be a part of any prison reform proposal. The Governor and I have asked the legislature to consider earned time which will require inmates to earn their good time through programmatic milestones so if you need alcohol treatment, you have to get it done. If you need anger management, you have have to get it done. Through those kind of programatic requirements, you could earn your good time and get out early," Bruning said.

When asked why he believes that he is the best choice to serve the people of Nebraska as the next governor, Bruning cites recent "humbling" experiences, such as a recent battle with cancer, and his experience working alongside current governor Dave Heinemann as sources for his confidence in being able to take over the role and do the job right.

"I've been humbled recently. I've lost an election. I've gone through a cancer scare. Those are humbling things. And I've continued to serve to the best of my ability as attorney general. It's been a privilege to do so. But I hope when Nebraskans look at the selection and make their choice, they look at the experience I have: 12 years of being an attorney general, 6 years of being a state senator working alongside great governors in Mike Johanns and Dave Heinemann. And they recognize that that experience is valuable. I won't need on the job training. I know what it takes to be governor. I'm ready to do the job," Bruning said.

Bruning also promises to fight back against the federal government in order to make sure that Nebraskans are able to continue independent growth.

"I have the experience pushing back against Obamacare, pushing back against EPA. Not because I don't love the environment, but because I don't want to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for marginal environmental gain," Bruning said. "They're trying to do away with coal at the Obama administration, and we have a power industry that's designed to use coal and keeps our energy efficient and cheap. So I'm a guy that has the experience pushing back against the federal government that has the experience alongside governors Heinemann and Johanns, and I think that's what sets me apart."

If elected, he also plans to not only focus on the bigger cities but to also continue to be present in the panhandle and mindful of the problems that residents in western Nebraska face.

"I think people in the panhandle know that I've been here many, many times as Attorney General. I'll be here many, many times if I'm elected governor. I know that the well being of the panhandle is critical to the well being of our entire state. We're all tied together. What's good for the panhandle is good for Nebraska," Bruning said.


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