Nebraska's proposed new business expansion tax incentives plan has been revised to add benefits targeted specifically for rural manufacturing and for job retention in the state following business acquisitions.
Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward, sponsor of the bill (LB720), said Thursday he is content to closely tie movement of the bill to a proposal (LB974) designed to provide property tax relief delivered through state school aid reform.
"I'm OK with that," he said during an interview in the legislative chamber prior to the Revenue Committee's public hearing on the amended legislation.
Supporters of the property tax relief proposal have vowed to tie the fate of the business tax incentives bill to substantial property tax reduction.
"I'll ask to move both of them out of the committee and to the floor," Kolterman said.
"I've worked hard on property taxes, too," he said, "and I think we're going to get something done on property taxes this session.
"I'm willing to wait," he said, although he said he thinks he has the votes to advance the business tax incentives bill on the floor.
"I'm a team player," Kolterman said.
The business tax incentives plan, called Imagine Nebraska, is designed to replace the Nebraska Advantage Act, which will expire at the end of the year.
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"Imagine Nebraska benefits set a base level of assistance for all projects and rewards higher wage projects and increased capital investment with additional incentives," according to a summary of the revised legislation.
"The program benefits existing businesses across the state by rewarding high-wage job growth, keeps Nebraska competitive to attract new growth opportunities to the state and provides incentives for companies to modernize their operations to increase competitiveness."
The legislation is designed not only to attract jobs and business investment, but also to keep jobs here, Kolterman said.
The new rural manufacturing component, which deals with concerns raised by rural senators who have expressed some reluctance to continue a program that may primarily benefit urban areas, is aimed at bringing new manufacturing jobs to rural counties with populations of less than 100,000.
The original bill "didn't go far enough in addressing pressing needs in rural Nebraska," Kolterman later told the committee.
In testimony before the Revenue Committee, OpenSky Policy Institute pointed to concerns raised by some senators about the cost of business tax incentives which "significantly reduce state revenues."
"There is a legitimate question as to whether these incentive programs are actually worth their cost," the committee was told.
Last year, rural senators led by Sen. Tom Briese of Albion, tied the fate of the new business tax incentives program to additional property tax relief by blocking advancement of the incentives bill after a last-ditch property tax relief proposal was trapped by a legislative filibuster.
In an interview last month, Briese tightly locked this session's two revised proposals together.
"One does not pass without the other," he said.
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