Interview with Jim Pillen, candidate for Nebraska Governor

The Republican candidate is running against Democrat Carol Blood and Libertarian Scott Zimmerman
Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 4:33 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 3, 2022 at 4:48 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - 10/11 NOW sat down with Republican Gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen to talk about his campaign. Here’s the interview:

Bayley Bischof, 10/11 NOW: If there’s someone out there who doesn’t know anything about you, what would you want them to know before they vote?

Jim Pillen, Running for Governor: You know, I’m a lifetime Nebraskan. Suzanne and I have raised our family in Columbus. I grew up on a farm northwest of Columbus, west of a little town called Platte Center. I got my degree from the University of Nebraska and a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Kansas State. We’ve raised four children, we have seven grandbabies, and they live next door and a mile away. So we’ve been incredibly blessed. We’ve spent our lifetime in agriculture, farming, pig production, genetics, and we stand before the people in Nebraska because we’re guilty. As I say, we love Nebraska and the people in Nebraska, everything that’s happened to Suzanne and I is because of Nebraska, and that’s why we’ve stepped up to try to make a difference. We’ve said, I have seven reasons my seven grandbabies and I think that’s what I’ve learned with most all of us Nebraskans, we’re about our future.

Bayley Bischof: One of your top priorities, if you were to be elected is to fix Nebraska’s, quote, broken property tax system, just what do you think is broken about it? What would you want to change?

Jim Pillen: I’d say I have four pillar words of why I’m running for governor and they are right in hand with how Suzanne and I have raised our family and built our business. It’s all about our kids. Everybody in Nebraska agrees our kids are our future. We need to protect them, we need to train them and keep all our kids here so we have a thriving middle class in Nebraska. Our tax system is broken. We are taxed too much as people our income taxes too high, our property taxes are so out of whack today in Nebraska. They affect every Nebraskan. You don’t even have to own property to be affected because our property taxes, so we have to do a couple things. We have to stop spending money. We have to inspire at the local level, city, county and we have to stop spending and stop the growth of government the state level. So one key part of that would be school funding. I think we have to change school funding. The TEEOSA formula is outdated, we need a Cherry Bomb as I say it. We have to change and when all of us in Nebraska believe we never quit on our kids and yet our state funding has quit on our kids. Nebraskans no matter what district they live in, are appalled when they find out that 158 of the 244 school districts in Nebraska do not get a penny of TEEOSA equalization aid. It’s important that we go away from the system and put common back in common sense and that we fund by the student in public education. The other thing and property taxes that has to change have to work hard with the unicameral but property tax is assessed by market value. When your home goes up, the taxes being paid continue to go up same with land and any commercial property. So I believe we need to make it on an income based that stops being an annuity plan of just money going into government. So those are some things are really important to have transformative tax change and stop spending, cut taxes so we can be competitive for my grandbabies and future generations to live here.

Bayley Bischof: Can you give some examples of areas you think the state could trim down spending?

Jim Pillen: Well, I think that any area that you want to talk about. All of us in business, and farming and ranching we start every year figuring out how do we run our business with less than what we spent the previous year. Government operates by a percentage increase every single year. I fundamentally believe that we all have great intentions, but that there are things that we’ve been doing, in business if we do something that doesn’t work, we stopped doing it. I think there’s tons of efficiencies at every step of the way and want to work really, really hard with all public servants to make sure that we can find those.

Bayley Bischof: Coming from a background in agriculture clearly something you’re very passionate about just what are some of the things you want to do for our ag producers in this?

Jim Pillen: I think there’s a couple things that I’ll stay on the top because I could talk forever about it. You know, we have to defend agriculture, there’s a lot of people attacking agriculture, that we are destroying the environment, the exact opposite is taking place. We are feeding the world and saving the planet because of Nebraska agriculture. So it’s really important that we defend it from the PETA groups and the vegan societies and the people that be believe in petri dish meat production. That’s really important and we have to grow. We raised lots of corn and soybeans and hay, we have to grow our value and agriculture, so we don’t export. When we export, we lose value. So growing it, and then most importantly, we’re the bread basket of the world. So we need to sell it and we need to find every market all over the world because we can’t consume it all here.

Bayley Bischof: A big topic for anyone in leadership in the state right now is a workforce shortage, and the number of young people who are moving out of the state. What difference do you think you can make on those issues?

Jim Pillen: Well, I think that that’s one thing we’ve been talking about for 21 months on the trail, we never give up on our kids, we have to do a better job of scholarshiping our best and our brightest. We’re losing 800-900 kids a year, because our scholarships and our university and colleges are not competing with our neighbors. Everybody has figured out our kids are the best, we have to compete to keep our best and brightest here, number one. Number two, half of our kids that are graduating from high schools are not getting further training, we have to scale some really cool things taking across the state. So every kid, it’s a 21st century, technology drives everything. But we need to get all of our kids in trade schools, we’ve made a mistake, countless educators have agreed that you you can be incredibly successful in trade schools, you don’t have to be a four year degree to be a fantastic contributing member. So those are key that we keep every kid here. What’s really awesome is we have numerous surveys, where nine out of 10 of our kids in high school today, guess where they want to live, they want to live where they’re growing up and raise their family. So we have tremendous opportunities. That’s the first step with being able to grow our workforce. And then we have to become, we have to brag more we have to sell we have to market our state, this is the best place to live. So we have to have some incentives to bring people here and bring them here quickly. It’s essential for all of the businesses that have been paying taxes for a long period of time so they can be successful and grow and meet their their demands.

Bayley Bischof: One of your main campaign slogans or campaign points has just been you want to stick stay true to Nebraska’s conservative values. What do you mean by conservative values?

Jim Pillen: Conservative values are really, really simple. Us Nebraskans. We don’t like to be told what to do. We can think for ourselves. We want to work hard. We want government out of our hair. We don’t want to be told what to do. We can figure that out for ourselves. We want to raise our children the way we see fit, not have government tell us how we’re supposed to raise our children. We want to shrink government. Government needs to be focused on just the needs. Government’s supposed to keep us safe, have our schools, have roads, be focused on the basic things, not everything under the sun.

Bayley Bischof: There are the majority of Nebraskans are registered Republicans but about an equal number are either registered nonpartisan or registered Democrat. How are you appealing to those voters? How would you lead those voters if you were elected?

Jim Pillen: Yeah. I think that for Nebraska, that most of us see things really similarly. I’ve not met anybody in Nebraska that doesn’t agree our kids are our future and that we need to protect them, train them and keep them here. I’ve not met any Nebraskan that doesn’t believe that we are taxed too high, and that we need to have transformative tax change. I’ve not met any Nebraskan that doesn’t believe that feeding the world is really important and that it’s one in four jobs that drives our economy. If agriculture goes well, all the rest of the state goes well, and I think it’s every Nebraskan agrees that we need to keep our people feel safe, that we support law and order. Almost all Nebraskans are pro-life. Those are really, really important issues that we stand up for.

Bayley Bischof: I read your Pillen playbook and you mention prayer in schools and supporting people with those biblical mindsets. Can you explain what those efforts are?

Jim Pillen: Yeah. I think it’s, it’s, it’s just really simple. We’ve talked about this for 21 months with all Nebraskans as well. How did it happen? This is not about religion. This is about all of us having the opportunity to praise our God and why we can’t do that in public schools. How did that happen? Well, it happened that most of us was thinking somebody else was doing it. So the thing that’s really important is all Nebraskans need to realize it’s important that our voices are heard, it’s really important that we are a part of the process. That’s what I’ve seen in the last 21 months. Nebraskans are saying, hey, you know what? My family’s been quiet. I need to make sure that my voice is heard and my family’s voice is heard. I think that’s really important and I think it’s really cool. It’s a key piece of democracy, and having a thriving community and a thriving state.

Bayley Bischof: We’ve heard some concerns that from people who aren’t Christians in Nebraska, would you be open to ensuring that they could also have their prayer schools also have their beliefs and values protected as well?

Jim Pillen: Yeah, I didn’t say just Christianity, I said about all of our God, anybody that has their God, that they have the opportunity to voice that.

Bayley Bischof: Are there any other priorities or any other issues you would want to make sure people know about before they vote?

Jim Pillen: Well, I think that, the people in Nebraska are incredible. I have loved asking this question. As I say us life-timers tend to take things for Nebraska for granted in Nebraska. I’ve been asking this and it’s really fun to Nebraskans that have moved here. What’s the one thing you love the most about Nebraska and that don’t take, don’t even take a breath, it’s the people. It’s the people in Nebraska. So the people are extraordinary. The other thing that’s really, really important is we have this pot of gold called the Ogallala Aquifer and it’s really important that everybody has confidence that we need to fight with everything we have to protect that to keep it sustainable and make sure we keep it clean. Our water is our future, is a key piece of the future the state of Nebraska for our kids,

Bayley Bischof: In my other interviews with other candidates for governor. They’ve basically both said that they’re running because they think Nebraska wants something different. We’ve heard people say, you know electing you would just be like electing Ricketts again. Would you agree with that categorization? Or are you hoping to take Nebraska in a different angle?

Jim Pillen: Well, I think that when people make generalizations, you can lead that to a lot of different directions. Obviously, the State of Nebraska has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, conservative leadership matters. We came out of the pandemic as one of the top states economies because of leadership because of Governor Ricketts leadership of let’s get after it and keep working and most Nebraskans kept working. So if that’s what my opponents don’t want, I’m pretty sure that people in Nebraska will speak our thriving economy. I’m Jim Pillen. I’m probably as Suzanne would say, not a person that likes to be told what to do. I’ve grown up and spent my life in agriculture and, you know, we’d be incredibly honored to have your viewers votes. We’ve worked really, really hard to make continue to make Nebraska an incredible place for my grandbabies to live.

Bayley Bischof: We are less than a week away from election day. Just how are you feeling about how that day is gonna go?

Jim Pillen: We’ve worked incredibly hard. I’m a believer that you can only control your attitude. We’ve been incredibly focused on positive interactions with countless Nebraskans for 21 months, and I’m a big time believer that hard work matters. We’ve worked harder than any candidate by multitudes measurable by every data point we keep track of. So the responses that we’ve received from Nebraskans across the state has been invigorating, humbling and overwhelming. We expect the day to go great.

Bayley Bischof: Those are all the questions that I had, unless there’s anything else you you want viewers to know.

Jim Pillen: I think that it’s really really important for all of us in Nebraska to makes sure that we have what I call the gift of appreciation for where we live, and the people that we take care of and that we neighbor with and I think it’s always really cool to remember that incredible saying that there is no place like Nebraska. So I hope when your viewers hear that though, they’ll say hey, we are blessed to live where we are.

Watch our interview with Democratic Candidate Carol Blood here and our interview with Libertarian Candidate Scott Zimmerman here.

For more information on the 2022 General Election, visit the 10/11 Voter’s Guide.