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Bob Kerrey accused Deb Fischer on Monday of misleading voters in remarks she made about her Nebraska legislative record during a weekend U.S. Senate debate, but her campaign stood by her statements as truthful.
Kerrey, the Democratic nominee, said in a press conference in Omaha that Fischer, the Republican nominee — who was in Tampa, Fla., for the GOP National Convention — misrepresented her role in opposing a 2010 bill related to Omaha's projected $2.6 billion sewer system upgrade.
Legislative Bill 952, proposed by then-Omaha Sen. Tom White, would have exempted Omahans from paying sales taxes on sewer fee increases for the project.
The proposal was projected to save Omahans $325 million over 20 years. Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle opposed the bill, however, saying the city would have to raise property taxes to make up for the lost sales tax revenue.
A filibuster killed the bill. Fischer was a leader of the opposition to the bill, speaking against it a number of times during the filibuster, according to legislative records.
During their debate Saturday at the Nebraska State Fair, Kerrey said that Fischer led the filibuster and that the bill's failure “will result in a $300 million tax increase for water users in Omaha.”
In the debate, Fischer replied, “I didn't lead any filibuster against a bill with the sewer separation, although if you think I'm that powerful, vote for me for the United States Senate.”
On Monday, Kerrey labeled that answer as “dishonest.”
Fischer's campaign acknowledged that she actively opposed the bill but stood by her remarks that she was not the leader of the filibuster.
“As a leader in the Legislature and the chair of a major committee, Sen. Fischer, along with other chairs, opposed a fiscally irresponsible bill that would have resulted in the City of Omaha raising property taxes on residents,” said campaign spokesman Daniel Keylin.
Kerrey also criticized Fischer for signing a no-tax-increase pledge put forth by Grover Norquist of the group Americans for Tax Reform.
“Her anti-tax philosophy is a recent acquisition,” said Kerrey, saying Fischer voted numerous times in the Nebraska Legislature to raise taxes or fees.
Keylin said Fischer voted for the largest tax-relief package in Nebraska history.
Asked by a reporter whether he ever voted to raise taxes, Kerrey replied that he had done so in the Senate and that the increases he supported helped balance the federal budget and create jobs.
World-Herald staff writer Joe Duggan contributed to this report.
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