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Gov. Pete Ricketts sings "You're a Grand Old Flag" with Beatrice Mayor Stan Wirth at Thursday's Rotary Club meeting.

Sam Craig Daily Sun staff

Gov. Pete Ricketts spent several hours in Beatrice Thursday to tout his budget and tax relief plans for the state.

He met with local media followed by lunch at Valentino’s where he spoke to the Beatrice Rotary Club in an open-to-the-public event.

While the focus of his visit was property taxes and the state’s budget, Ricketts answered questions on a variety of other topics:

On state and federal government attempts to increase restriction on gun accessories:

“I don’t believe the bills introduced are germane. Suppressors actually help people, they protect your hearing. I’m absolutely against anything that would make firearms and accessories more restricted.”

On the state’s foster care system:

Ricketts said he has assembled a task force to look for ways to improve the current system. He noted that there has been nearly a 9 percent increase in the number of children under the state’s care recently. He said one part of the puzzle will be communicating with judges and tweaking policy to give children the best long-term chance at a stable home.

On funding cuts to the University of Nebraska that could result in increased tuition:

“It’s still a good value at the University of Nebraska. Nebraska is one of five states where we’ve seen funding for education go up over the last decade. The University is being treated equally to all state colleges in Nebraska. It’s still going to be one of the most affordable universities in the Big Ten.”

On soliciting and supporting candidates for the Nebraska Legislature:

“I have come out in support of some candidates,” he said, noting that it’s common practice for governors and other office holders to work on surrounding themselves with people who share common goals and beliefs. “I talk to the candidates and see which ones are going to be involved and passionate...”

Ricketts said he has not made any decisions if he will support a candidate for the District 30 (Beatrice and portions of Gage and southern Lancaster county) seat on the Unicameral. The governor indicated he would wait until after the filing period before making any decisions on who – if anyone – he might support for District 30.

On his frequent visits to Beatrice:

“I love visiting Beatrice,” Ricketts said. “It’s in part to share what we’re doing and part of it is to hear what others think. Just like in Washington D.C., where there seems to be a bubble, the same can happen in Lincoln. I think you have a great community here. It’s a community where people are innovative. You have NGage engaged with companies internationally. Companies don’t invest in generic cities, they invest in specific communities. Beatrice has a reputation of being a welcoming community.”

-- By Patrick Ethridge

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