In addition to the minimum wage increase, here are other major changes and what they mean for the state.

Personal property tax

Nebraska farmers and business owners may qualify for a property tax break under a new state exemption for personal business property.

The law approved in May allows business owners to exempt the first $10,000 worth of tangible property used in their operations for an average tax savings of $162. The exemption applies to farm equipment such as irrigation pivots and tractors, and business equipment such as rail cars, pipelines and factory machines. It will cost the state an estimated $19.6 million a year.

The bill was LB259.

Tax breaks for Woodmen of the World

A well-known fraternal society will get an estimated $800,000 property tax break for its 30-story headquarters in downtown Omaha.

The new law approved in May provides a tax exemption to nonprofit fraternal benefit societies. It was aimed at the Woodmen of the World Insurance Society, a prominent insurance firm that suggested it might leave Omaha.

Supporters in the Legislature argued that the organization provides 550 good-paying jobs. Critics assailed the measure as bad tax policy, and state Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha accused its supporters of "licking the boots of the big shots."

The bill was LB414.

Tax breaks for zoos, aquariums

Nationally accredited zoos and aquariums will no longer have to charge sales taxes for admission or membership fees, and their purchases will be tax exempt as well.

The new law applies to zoos that are operated by public agencies or nonprofit groups for educational, scientific or tourism purposes.

The chief beneficiary is Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo, with some 1.7 million visitors a year. The Lincoln Children's Zoo and Riverside Discovery Center in Scottsbluff will also benefit.

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Supporters say the zoos encourage tourism in Nebraska, but some conservative lawmakers argue that it comes at the expense of tax relief for larger groups of people.

The bill was LB419.

Renewable energy tax

Facilities that produce solar, biomass and landfill gas energy will face one less obstacle that could hinder the industry's growth in Nebraska.

A new state law will require facilities to pay a nameplate capacity tax similar to one already imposed on wind energy, instead of a personal property tax.

The nameplate capacity tax is a tax on an energy facility's potential output. County governments and project developers generally prefer it over the personal property tax because it provides a consistent revenue stream for counties and lower up-front costs for facility owners.

Prior to 2010, Nebraska wind energy facilities were taxed as personal property that depreciated over a five-year period. The old tax created budget problems for host counties and project developers because it generated a spike in revenue at the outset of a project, followed by a sharp downturn in the following years.

The bill was LB424.


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