THEDFORD—More than 50 sandhills residents gathered in Thedford on Wednesday afternoon to hear from Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts. A picket line of concerned citizens holding “preserve the Sandhills” signs lined the highway as the crowd gathered at the Upper Loup Natural Resources District building.
The governor spent the first half of the town hall meeting highlighting the state’s four “pillars of prosperity” and ended with questions fro the crowd.
Governor Ricketts opened his presentation with the vision for growing Nebraska and outlined the four pillars as follows:
1. Connecting people to great paying jobs and developing people so they can take those jobs
2. Running government more like a business to make it a effective and efficient way of serving Nebraskans
3. Controlling spending, being good stewards of tax payer dollars, and therefore providing tax relief
4. Promoting Nebraska
“The vision for my administration is to grow Nebraska. And by that I mean create more better paying jobs to keep our kids and grandkids here,” Governor Ricketts said.
The Governor expanded on the first pillar with information about the Developing Youth Talent Initiative and changes to the unemployment system requiring people seeking benefits to first sit down with a jobs coach. He added that this has reduced the amount of benefits given out and has saved money for Nebraska employers.
“That’s the way government is supposed to work, right? We’re supposed to be good stewards of your tax payer dollars. We’re supposed to be encouraging people to get to work,” Governor Ricketts said.
When discussing the idea of running government more like a business, the governor said his administration has cut down on the state’s yearly budget growth and has put more money into the property tax credit relief fund, which he said is not an answer by itself.
“The only way you can have sustainable provide tax relief is by controlling spending. There’s no other way to do it,” the governor said.
A Valentine resident described property taxes as a “chokehold on agriculture” and that farmers and ranchers need immediate relief. The governor responded with caution against a ballot initiative that he feels could potentially increase sales taxes.
“We at the state we don’t collect property taxes. Not a penny. That is all collected by your local entities,” the governor said during his presentation.
The town hall meeting ended with concerns about Nebraska Public Power District’s (NPPD) R-Project which involves a 345,000-volt transmission line from a station near Sutherland to an existing substation east of Thedford.
As stated on the NPPD website, “the R-Project will increase the reliability of the transmission system, relieve congestion on the existing system, and provide additional opportunities for development of renewable projects if desired at the local level.”
Governor Ricketts said LB 155 changes eminent domain provisions but residents should speak to their county board about zoning. He said measures are being taken to lesson environmental impacts, but that the R-Project will increase power reliability.
Approximately half the crowd raised their hands when prompted by an audience member in opposition of the R-project route and the effect it could have on the sandhills.