Governor Pete Ricketts stopped at the Verdigre Library on Tuesday to celebrate an innovative collaboration between public schools and public libraries.
The Verdigre Library is one of only six libraries across Nebraska participating in the "Sparks Grant: NE Schools & Libraries Break the Ice and Ignite Internet Relationships.” The collaboration also includes the Nebraska Library Commission, Institute of Museums and Library Services and the state’s Chief Information Office.
The goal of the grant is to provide better internet access in libraries with a particular emphasis on providing better access for students to complete homework.
The Verdigre Library was packed with students and adults alike. Governor Ricketts explained the importance of a great relationship between schools and libraries. He also congratulated Verdigre on their Sparks Grant.
For the Sparks Grant in Verdigre, the Nebraska Unified District #1 shares its wifi with the public library 4 p.m. until 8 a.m. Patrons are invited to see if they can tell a difference from daytime library speeds (20 mbps) to evening school speeds (70 mbps). Other towns participating in the Sparks grant are Genoa, Bancroft, Wymore, Imperial and Bayard.
After congratulating Verdigre on their grant, the crowd used the opportunity to ask Ricketts questions on a variety of topics, including his goals as governor.
“The vision for our administration is to grow Nebraska,” he said.
The governor pointed out that a major goal is to find jobs right here in Nebraska. Jobs the students listening to him would someday get.
“We want to keep our kids, our grandkids, and attract people from other states as well,” he explained.
According to Ricketts, it is important to make sure everyone knows Nebraska is a great place for jobs and education. In Nebraska, he said there are many jobs in manufacturing, logistics, computer coding, construction and agriculture. The governor went on to explain how many programs are in place to help Nebraskans find good paying jobs suited to them.
Governor Ricketts then switched to discussing the budget. He said Nebraska works hard to balance the budget without raising taxes.
“Here in Nebraska, we don’t spend money we don’t have,” the governor said.
He said predicting the exact budget can be hard, but a team will “forecast” the budget, trying to estimate how much money will be coming in each year. The last two years, the income actually was below the forecasted amount, leading to cuts.
The governor said the ultimate goal of balancing the budget is to control spending. Once this happens, he hopes to put money into property tax.
“The number one issue people have been talking about is property tax,” Ricketts said.
According to the governor, ag land evaluations have gone up 252 percent over the last 10 years and the taxes paid on them have gone up 162 percent.
He explained that the property tax relief fund is one of the ways they are trying to fix this problem.
He also explained how other states like South Dakota, Iowa, and Kansas have income potential value evaluation for ag land. This would evaluate ag land based upon what the farmers can earn off of it rather that what market sales are set at.
Ricketts expressed the importance of marketing Nebraska. He has gone to Japan, the European Union, Canada and more to sell Nebraska, to show them what a great place it is.
Trips like these helped increase Nebraska’s beef exports to Japan by 26 percent. Not only does it help exports, but it also helps bring companies here, the governor said. He has also reached out to companies in New York and the Silicon Valley.
Kawasaki, a company from Japan, has created the first ever aero station in Nebraska. Facebook will be making their sixth data center here as well. This, in turn, creates more jobs for Nebraskans, he said.
“Nebraska has won the Governor’s Cup two years in a row now for most economic development per capita,” Ricketts said.
According to him, Nebraska has had more projects with companies investing in the state than North Dakota, South Dakota and Kansas combined.