New senator profile: Burke Harr
December 30th, 2010
Lincoln, NE – There will be six new senators when the Nebraska Legislature reconvenes January 5. Two are from the greater Omaha metro area, the first in this profile series is Democrat Burke Harr of Omaha. (Click here to listen to profiles of all six new senators)
Burke Harr brings a wide variety of experience to his new job representing District 8 in the Legislature. Harr grew up in Omaha and went to college at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. He then spent a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in San Francisco working to help women get off welfare, before going to law school at Notre Dame.
He returned to Omaha as a Douglas County prosecutor, then joined a law firm and now runs a small business consulting firm. Harr said with nearly a $1 billion budget gap looming, itâ€™s an interesting time to join the Legislature.
â€œWe as a state are going to have to decide who and what we want government to be,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s obvious that we canâ€™t deliver the services that we delivered before. Or if we do, itâ€™s going to take large tax increases, which nobody wants. So we have to pare down who and what government is.â€
Harr doesnâ€™t have a laundry list of things heâ€™d like to cut. When asked about balancing the budget through a mix of spending cuts and tax increases, he referred back to his close election campaign against business man John Comstock.
â€œI got in trouble with the paper, when this was talked about,â€ he said, â€œbecause I made the statement â€˜never say never.â€™ But itâ€™s imprudent to raise taxes during a recession, and itâ€™s generally imprudent to raise taxes.â€
However the budget issueâ€™s resolved, Harr suggested the Legislature shouldnâ€™t pay disproportionate attention to less important issues, as he thinks it has in the past.
â€œThe Legislature spent something like six days debating the helmet law, whether it was good or bad or not,â€ he said. â€œWell, I call those student council issues. Youâ€™re either for it or against it, thereâ€™s not a lot of thought that goes into it, itâ€™s a pretty simple issue.â€
â€œAnd then the budget, which is very complex and touches everyoneâ€™s life, two years ago was passedâ€¦ two rounds of votes happened in less than a day.â€
Harr will be the only freshman Democrat in the officially nonpartisan Unicameral. He replaces Omaha senator Tom White who skipped running for re-election in favor of an unsuccessful campaign for Congress.
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