Making Nebraska Competitive: The GOC’s Take on this Year’s Nebraska Legislation Sessions

The Legislature adjourned at 4:31 on June 1 after a session that was at times trying but, in the end, successful. Though we have counseled that senators always get it done, there were days whenever hopeful chamber public policy had moments of doubt.

Senators were gaveled in on January 4 with a lot to deal with. First, this is a budget year. The state constitution mandates that a new spending plan be approved, and legislative rules require that this be done as the fiscal year ends on June 30. Second, Nebraska has a record revenue surplus. That meant opportunity and heightened public demand that the state’s tax burden be addressed.

Our senators checked those boxes.

There were ups, downs, and places in between. Some issues remain for 2024 and likely sessions after that. Workforce attraction. Industrial site development. Enhancing the Omaha Metro’s reputation as a welcoming place, something that took a hit as the session progressed.

The Chamber Agenda

This was a significant session for some of the Chamber’s longstanding priorities.

Taxes: Reducing the top individual and corporate income tax rates to a competitive level has been a top Chamber priority for decades. With LB 754, we will reach that goal. The rates will be down to 3.99% by 2027. The effect this will have on the Chamber’s business development efforts cannot be overstated. Site selectors look to the margins. People considering employment in Nebraska think about the bottom line. This will increase investment and job creation. It will prove vital in workforce attraction and retention. All go to the core of our development efforts.

For those looking at the property tax bottom line, LB 243 increases tax credits and replaces community college general fund levies with state funding. That and the substantial funding the state already provides to direct and income tax credits should make a notable and meaningful difference in the annual bill.

Economic and community development: Establishing large industrial sites is essential to business attraction. The budget increases Omaha airport business park funding from $60 million to $90 million. This has been on the Chamber drawing boards for years. In that vein, DED is authorized to issue awards to high-tech manufacturers eligible under the federal CHIPS Act, and such businesses will be able to use ImagiNE credits to finance port authority revenue bonds. This will both promote the development of chip manufacturing in Nebraska and provide a critical component for the port authority concept.

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Work continues on mega-site authorization and funding. The language was included in the budget, allowing the Department of Economic Development to delve into the benefits of such sites for advanced manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, energy, and other transformational industries. A legislative study (LR 197) on this will be conducted in the interim.

Building on last year’s federal ARPA economic and community development efforts, this session approved LB 531, a measure aimed at projects in high-poverty areas, particularly in North and South Omaha. This will provide visible progress.

LB 727, a Revenue Committee omnibus with 28 amended proposals, includes several economic development measures: An extension of the deadline for the UNMC NExT project, a fix for ImagiNE R&D credits, reviving the historic property renovation credit, and state sales tax assistance for the convention center, sports facilities, and shopping centers deemed as “good life districts.”

Transportation: Authorizing bonding for large state highway projects has also been a longtime pursuit. LB 706 (amended into LB 727) provides $450 million in bonds. As the Chamber has long expounded, this is not only an inflation beater; it gets you your highway now instead of decades from now.

In the End

A month ago, the Legislature had approved zero bills. At adjournment, well over 200 got the final nod.

Interim study season begins before too long, winter will arrive, and senators will return to try again (with 542 of the 839 introduced bills awaiting committee action). In the meantime, enjoy summer and know that, by and large, and in the end, your legislature works.

Save  these  Dates:

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