The Wheels Down Politics Show – State Sen. Mike Groene

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552d880130960.imageJerry Kratochvil interviews Nebraska State Senator Mike Groene (LD42).

Jerry and Senator Groene discuss his involvement with the signature petition process to stop the Death Penalty repeal. They talk about Groene’s background and experience in past signature petitions and how he came to be involved in politics at the state level.

Then they get into some of the nitty-gritty of the petition process, his strategy for where to find signers, and how he worked with fellow volunteers in collecting signatures in western Nebraska.

They then discuss Groene’s involvement and founding of the Western Nebraska Taxpayers Association as well as starting the Platte Institute with Pete Ricketts and others. Groene discusses his thoughts on the tax system in Nebraska, what he can work with and where he takes his stands.

They conclude by talking about Groene’s priorities for the coming legislative session, as well as who he is supporting for President (and Vice President!) of the United States, and why.

On the web: State Senator Mike Groene


You can find this, and all of our podcasts at and by searching Wheels Down Politics on iTunes.


  1. TexasAnnie says:

    Good on Mike Groene for taking a stand regarding his right to petition. And good on Mike Groene for his negative vote on LB414. It would seem he talks the talk and walks the walk.

    But, as a member of the Eduction Committee, and espouser of “civilized society,” I’ve got to know:
    When budgeting educational expenses for the next biennium, what prompted a seemingly automatic 3% increase in every educational spending category EXCEPT special education? Do civilized societies routinely neglect and/or abuse the least able? And what of the new abuse allegations out of Beatrice? Does Nebraska still need federal oversight?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I see that, if you got to the 8:50 mark of the podcast, Groene was targeting senators who voted for the death penalty repeal, to “send them a message”. We will see how his fellow senators react to that.

  3. NE Spending Addiction says:

    Senator Groene tagged the two big issues impacting Nebraska:

    State Government Spending
    Local Government Spending

    Without addressing our addiction to spending, Nebraska farmers, businesses and tax payers will continue to enjoy the Good Life (living in a high taxed). But do not die in Nebraska, because local government create budgets upon who dies and the money that they can extract from the estate.

    We need more Senators like Senator Groene who go after spending….spending first!

  4. More Lincoln Journal Star ‘journalism’ for ya, Sweep. This from Nancy Hicks, today.

    “But Republicans, who gained a majority on the council in the May elections, turned the 2015-16 budget into a partisan battleground. ”

    “Democrat Carl Eskridge joined them in voting for the cuts that would allow the 1-cent property tax rate reduction. ”


  5. The Grundle King says:

    Truly comical, considering that Carl Eskridge is one of the more outspoken, staunch Democrats on the council.

    Apparently Nancy believes it’s “partisan” to expect city agencies to return unspent tax dollars to the taxpayers. Then again, the LJS attacked Schulte for expecting LPS to return extra tax revenue to the taxpayers, so Nancy’s views don’t exactly come as a shock.

  6. Sparkles says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Mike Groene on his primary target to attain property tax relief.

    The teacher’s union/lobby is -the- most destructive force to our states economic health and future well-being.

    I agree informed Nebraskans can indeed find an efficient way to trim $800 from the $11,579 per pupil/yr cost to educate a Nebraska student.
    As Mr. Groene noted, an $800 trim gets us (a low cost of living state) to the national avg of $10,700.

    A comparison of surrounding states:
    IA = $10,313
    KS = $9828
    CO = $8647
    MO = $9597
    SD = $8470
    ND = $11,980

    And a peek at value/dollar –
    U.S. News’ 2015 ranking of the Best Public High School Educations in America is:
    #2) CA = $9220
    #6) FL = $8433
    #7) OH = $11,197
    #10) VA = $10,960
    #12) GA = $9099
    #15 WA = $9672
    16 tie) CO = $8647
    16 tie) TX = $8229
    (ranking derived: “schools are most successfully preparing students for college, based on students participating in and achieving passing scores on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests. For a school to be eligible for a gold or silver medal, its students must also do well on the appropriate statewide tests”)

    Maybe Mike and Pete can spend some money on a few billboards to promote an ‘Efficiency and Accountability in Education’ campaign. Here’s a simple slogan:

    $800 x 303,505 students = $242,804,000.00

    The opportunity cost of a quarter billion dollars lost to a state the size (economic) of Nebraska is nothing short of monumental.
    Although, I strongly disagree with Mike that cuts should be made, or programs denied in the areas of early learning and pre-K.
    Mike imagines since he attended neither, that no other child stands to benefit from early education. I, respectfully, think that’s just foolish.
    And, speaking of Accountability in Education, Mike should have stuck with his comment as originally stated: “I agree with Common Core”.
    Common Core (created and approved by 41 state Governors) is all about holding teachers and school systems accountable.
    Common Core drills down specifically on the very attribute that enables success and leads to true wisdom, critical thinking skills.
    The GOP is simply wrong to allow it’s rube rump to hijack all the good that would be derived through the implementation of Common Core.

  7. bynd says:

    Since it was governors who came up with Common Core, like it or not, it would appear that the US Dept. of Education can be dismantled as ineffective. While we are at it, the State should be taken out of the education business, take it out of the State constitution. Then give control and the ability to fund education back to the local level.

  8. Sparkles says:

    I would have love to hear Sweep ask his podcast guests this question:
    ‘What do you think lead to the dismaying and shockingly large contingent of simpletons among the Republican base?’

    From the newly released PPP poll – Aug, 28-30, 2015, a National survey of 572 Republican Primary voters:

    Do you think Barack Obama was born in the United States?
    70% answered either No (44) or Not Sure (26)

    Do you think Barack Obama is a Christian, or a Muslim, or are you not sure?
    86% answered either Muslim (54) or Not Sure (32)

    The poll numbers specific to Trump supporters:
    66% think Obama is a Muslim
    61% think he was born somewhere other than the United States

    Post election analysis shows PPP to have been the most accurate of all polling firms in the 2012 election.

  9. Pete says:


    Let’s go ask the democrats some multiple choice questions and see what we come up with. I bet I can get 60% of respondents to tell me that 9/11 was an inside job, orchestrated by Dick Cheney.

    And with Obama’s attraction to a nuke deal that assures the destruction of Israel, I can see why some people are convinced he’s a muslim.

  10. Purple Penguin says:

    Groene wants a tax shift on Douglas, Sarpy, and Lancaster Counties. Most state aid goes to these counties. The big spenders are rural schools that spend over $20,000 a kid.

  11. Anonymous says:

    bynd @ 10:04, paraphrasing Mark Twain, for practice God made the idiot. Then when God was finished with practice He made the school board member. Unchecked local control results stupidity all ’round. There’s a reason we have professional educators, just like professional cops, firefighters, doctors & nurses. There are somethings lay people don’t know. Witness the stupidity of Texas controlling textbook adoption nationwide. Screw Texas, I want textbooks written by somebody with a brain in their head! And students educated enough to be informed skeptics, especially in politics. I wish to hell I knew where those same students devolved into school board members.

  12. Sparkles says:


    The latest polling I could find on 911 Truthers was an April 2013 PPP poll, which shows:
    “11% of voters believe the US government allowed 9/11 to happen, 78% do not agree”

    So sorry, there simply is no equivalent ignorance on the left.
    Much of our political dysfunction is the result this false equivalence promulgated by the right. Right wing purveyors of bullshit never get called to the carpet because of the false cry: ‘the other side does it too!’
    The democratic party is indeed NOT as obstructionist and anti-government as the right.

    The left has no malefactors the equivalent of Steve King, Louie Gohmert or Ted Cruz.
    The left has no equivalent industry of provocateurs, faux martyrs and grifters by the gaggle. Charlatans like Limbaugh, Beck, Palin, Hannity, Levin, Fox ‘News’, Newt Gingrich, Alex Jones, Hugh Hewitt, Dinesh D’Souza, Ann Coulter, Erik Erickson, Tony Perkins… the list is endless.

    And to put that 11% of 911 Truthers in perspective, that same 2013 PPP poll found –
    21% of voters say a UFO crashed in Roswell, NM in 1947 and the US government covered it up. More Romney voters (27%) than Obama voters (16%) believe in a UFO coverup

    13% of voters think Barack Obama is the anti-Christ, including 22% of Romney voters

    14% of voters believe in Bigfoot

  13. Linda R says:

    I thought the best thing that Senator Silver Fox said was that the Donald is out there saying what Nebraska Republicans are all saying around the kitchen table. I couldn’t agree more. Too bad he decided not to endorse Trump, but will definitely back him when he wins the nomination.

  14. Yes, let’s forget that Tom Harkin insisted NIH fund quack medicine and wrote homeopahty into PPACA. And that John Conyers and 50 other Democrats are trying to block new GMOs. And that Maxine Waters claimed the CIA was importing cocaine into black neighborhoods to kill African Americans. And that Sheila Jackson Lee asked if the Mars Rover could see the flag the astronauts left on the Moon. And that Alan Grayson, while lambasting Wall Street, runs his own Cayman Island hedge funds against House ethics rules.

    And let’s forget Al Sharpton and Melissa Harris Perry and Toure and Laurence O Donnell and Ed Schultz.

    The Right has a monopoly on stupidity and insanity and hypocrisy and graft.

  15. bynd says:

    Why is it that so many liberals spend their time on conservative web sites? Posting to those they believe inferior with a literally caveman mentality.

    Could it be they actually believe that they will change someone’s mind? Such an arrogant attitude would only show how self adsorbed and ignorant they really are.

    Do they believe they are blessing a lower class with their presence? That would be construed as a god complex, it could be close to the truth.

    Do they think that conservatives can not find their own polls and then cut and paste? Actually, on other sites rarely do the libs even try to objectively support their partisan rants. It is so, because they say it is so.

    However, if it is just their goal to go somewhere were they feel superior and smarter, that certainly can’t be done at their own sites because they all feel that way. And such an arrogant attitude would certainly not be tolerated by the true progressives, because every one is equal. Except for ________.
    ( fill in the blank as you see fit.)

    In the end, it appears that libs are unable to get an intelligent, different, well reasoned and coherent response on their own sites. Why else would they take so much correction from so many? They obviously gain something from being around so many conservatives.

    Gnosticism was suppose to have been discredited a long time ago. Maybe it is a theology that liberals are resurrecting for violations of PC. Done intentionally or not.

  16. Anonymous says:

    “There simply is no equivalent ignorance on the left… the Democratic Party is indeed not as obstructionist and anti-government as the right.” — Sparkles, you are so certain you are right.

    One is never more wrong than when one is immovably sure that they cannot be wrong. It feels good to be sure and uncomfortable to be unsure. Political partisans tend to be very, very sure.

    The difference between Democrats and Republicans is where you draw you line between how much government is needed vs. how much individual freedom you are willing to relinquish. My desperate need is your insufferable tyranny and vice versa. But, in truth, most “need” is really want and most “tyranny” is just irritation. Frogs puffing up with air declaring, DAMNIT, I’M RIGHT!

    Sparkles, you seem to want Republicans to die. You speak of them as dangerous creatures. That is also how some see you. Are you that? I suppose you are if you really do want others to die for sake of your certainty. — Millions of decent people were certain when they voted for Hitler before he outlawed elections. Millions starved in gulags by Stalin were fully convinced he was their beloved god. They were sure of their loves and beliefs.

    The sure Republicans today despise Trump. He is not GOP enough. That from people who worship Reagan the 33 year Democrat. They want another Bush. Why? Was either Bush the best we could do?

    The sure Democrats today despise Sanders. How dare he run? He’s not her. They want another Clinton–White Water, Impeachment notwithstanding– and yet there is Vice President Biden standing in the wings. Still, they want another Clinton. Why? Was Clinton the best we could do?

  17. Anonymous says:

    bynd, why do you assume there are only two political philosophies in this country, broadly called “liberal” and “conservative?” And only two parties? People come here to have their say, and not to be so easily boxed and defined as A or B, R or D.

    Picking up on Anon @ 5:57 PM, why are our choices so hideously limited? My theory about Trump is that, out of the, say, 25+ Republican & Democrat candidates for the White House, Trump, blowhard though he is, is a non-lawyer and not a career politician. That in itself is a relief. Trump also spends his own money, which enables him to speak his own mind.

    Trump is a tool, but at least he gives the appearance of being his own tool, and not a blunt instrument wielded by Soros or the Koch Brothers. Will Trump win? God forbid! But do we need alternative to current paucity of true alternatives to legislative careerist lawyers running billion dollar campaigns for the Presidency. By Franklin’s criteria we’ve already lost our Republic. I don’t know what to call what we have, but I’d expect the Founders to spit if they could see it. I join them.

  18. bynd says:

    And I join you. But the game is rigged, the ideal lost. Yes, both parties by themselves are minorities. Independents out number either party head to head. Yet, what difference has that made? We have seen the richest in the world try to break the strangle hold of the two parties. However, there are more rich in favor of the status quo. And finally, there are more non voters than voters.

    As to philosophy of those who participate in elections, there is but one for both sides, get power and expand power at any cost. All the other nuances serve the philosophy power.

    There is a saying I love. It actually comes from Ministry to Men. Your system is perfectly built for the results you get. And this system has been built by the American public for over 200 years.

    I was a republican then a libertarian and now just an independent, although after 5 decades I rarely vote any more. But, on these sites you have really three choices. Pick on the Dems. or the Repubs. The third choice is the one I like the most. Pick on both sides. In the case of Nebraska, since the Repubs are in charge, it is easier to pick on the Dems because they are the loudest and most hypocritical group out there. The Repubs have they only people doing anything in this state to be critical of. The Dems. are a weak almost irrelevant group but they whine most excellently.

    So I do apologize if it seems I think there are two political parties out there. The irony is, for all the bloviating about minorities, they are the minorities. How pathetic is that.

    PS. I am not bitter or mad. I enjoy and am satisfied with where I am at:)

  19. Anonymous says:

    You surprise me! Why cut teacher clout but keep pre-K? And regarding SPED (which you did not comment about): for nearly fifty years the feds have not held up their end of the “bargain” with the states to educate ALL children i.e. 40% excess cost. And in return, the states have slighted their end of this bargain, particularly in Nebraska! Thus, SPED has never been fully funded. When we take out $800 per child, SPED is even less fully funded. Sooo, I ask: How do you know that what you know about educational spending is TRUE?

    Across the board cuts never work because we do not have equity in our educational programming (and taxing policies). It’s simply a lazy way to legislate. And besides, the unicam never really cuts university spending. And it’s not constitutionally guaranteed, like K-12!

  20. Sparkles says:

    Anon at 6:35 am

    1) To preface all my answers, I specifically stated in my original comment:
    “..informed Nebraskans can indeed find an efficient way to trim $800..”

    Now, I’ll do my best to answer your thoughtful questions:
    2) “When we take out $800 per child, SPED is even less fully funded.”

    Why would that be? (see number 1)

    And your question:
    3) “Why cut teacher clout but keep pre-K?”

    I don’t see the correlation.

    And your question:
    4) “How do you know that what you know about educational spending is TRUE?”

    It’s accounting.
    Nice thing about accounting, it’s objective. Black and white, not open to interpretation.

    And finally to your statement:
    “Across the board cuts never work..”

    See number 1.
    ‘Informed’ Nebraskans wouldn’t reach for the nearest cleaver and simply make across the board cuts.
    I believe we’re blessed with an abundance of informed Nebraskans, both R and D.
    I believe we could bring a dozen people together and they could attain $800 in savings per child, with little effort.
    No doubt Teacher’s would yell and scream and their lobbyists would be in full revolt. And in the end teacher and administrator pensions and benefits would likely be, almost imperceptibly, less generous.
    But, the vast majority of Nebraskans would be better served when a quarter billion dollars each and every year is directed toward a better future for our children and grandchildren.
    Ideologically, I would imagine Mr. Groene and I are on the opposite ends of a continuum. (although, I was in fact a registered Republican most of my life).
    Nevertheless, I’m certain Mr. Groene is quite intelligent and exceptionally well informed.
    I trust he also cares about greater opportunity and a better future for Nebraska’s youth and would therefore bring to the table a reasoned and honest effort.

    Unfortunately, the democrats can be expected to pander to the teachers union*.
    So, this will be a good test for the NE GOP.
    An NE GOP that owns the Governors mansion and maintains an overwhelming majority in the legislature.
    How many will side with the lobbyists to defeat common sense, fiscally sound legislation?

    *Of course, this is the same teachers union that endorsed Heineman in 2010, after Dave funneled to them $234 Million in Federal Stimulus dollars, then, during the Great Recession, publicly called for all teachers to get raises.

  21. Interesting says:

    $800 per child. Sounds good. Who will be cut then? There are districts like Papillion, Millard and Elkhorn that spend $1600 less per pupil than the state average. Is he trying to cut another $800 from them?

  22. Sparkles says:


    Great question.
    I found the following statistics re Lincoln Public Schools (both LPS docs):
    2013-14 budget was $9755 per student, compared to $10,710 per pupil state avg.

    A doc dated June, 2015, stating LPS spends $10,297 per pupil, making it 234th out of 249 school districts in per pupil spending.
    (even though LPS per pupil avg increased $552 in 1 year)

    I’m assuming rural school systems drive up the per pupil cost, due to smaller concentration of students relative to facility/faculty costs?

    At $1600 below the state average, you’d think the tax payers of Papillion, Millard and Elkhorn would be leading the charge for accountability.

    I bet Scott Lautenbaugh knows all the numbers and knows who pulls the strings.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Sparkles @ 9:56am

    #2: SPED funding doesn’t work that way. The pass-through from feds to the state and on to the local districts necessitates “administrative costs,” and, “efficiency” usually results from grouping like-students to accommodate like-needs, an almost illegal practice nowadays.

    #3: I didn’t mean to suggest a correlation; only a preference for good teacher pay! Usually pro-eduction folks don’t want to cut teacher pay while simultaneously creating or beefing up new pre-K programs. Again, you surprise me, Sparkles.

    #4: Yes, of course accounting is objective. But objectivity is lost in the application. You write $800 X 303,305 students = $242,804,000 savings as though a simple calculation may justify a loss of even $800 to any student. Rural students, SPED students, ESL students, and others, already ‘count’ differentially under the state aid formula. And Omaha is goofed up with a learning community. Your suggested cut of $800 per student could not be “informed” timely, and a truly “informed” dozen R’s and D’s could not complete the task satisfactorily, given the very great diversity of learning needs across the state, and the eternal squabbling about property tax. Anyway, isn’t that what the Education Committee is supposed to be doing?

  24. Anonymous says:

    Sparkles @10:50am
    Papillion, Millard and Elkhorn share in the learning community pool. And yes, the rural schools drive up per pupil cost due to student/teacher ratio.

  25. TexasAnnie says:

    The state constitution places the cost of K-12 at the vault of the state treasury (income, sales, misc. taxes).

    Yet about half or more of the cost of K-12 is born locally, by the property taxpayer. The state, forbidden constitutionally from collecting the property tax, yet responsible for the education of “all persons between the ages of 5 and 21” (that means SPED, homeless and illegal immigrants too!) tries to make the local districts comply with state and federal regulation. I hope. The locals look to the state for excess cost; the state looks to the feds; and the feds, without funding prior obligations, distract by creating new obligations or “unfunded mandates,” further confusing the cost and distribution of state aid. You can’t get to reason from here, Sparkles. But don’t think the unicam hasn’t been trying. At least every 8-10 years, they study “state aid.”

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