And in the end . . .

The Legislature adjourned at 4:31:20 on Thursday 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 when ever 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 heighted public demand that the state’s tax burden be addressed.

Our senators checked those boxes.

There were ups, downs, and places in between. There are issues that 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 major 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 percent 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 consider 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 who look to the property tax bottom line, LB 243 increases in tax credits and replaces community college general fund levies with state funding. That, along with 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: Establishment of large industrial sites is essential to business attraction. The budget increases funding for an Omaha airport business park 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 development of chip manufacturing in Nebraska and provide a key component for the port authority concept.

Work continues on mega-site authorization and funding. Language was included in the budget that allows the Department of Economic Development to delve in to 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 saw approval of LB 531, a measure aimed at projects high poverty areas, particularly in North and South Omaha. This will provide visible progress.

LB 727, a Revenue Committee omnibus with 28 proposals amended in, includes a number of economic development measures: 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 convention center, sports facilities, and shopping centers deemed as “good life districts.”

Transportation: Authorizing the use of bonding for large state highway projects has also been a longtime pursuit. LB 706 (amended int LB 727) provides for $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.

As always, big thanks to the Chamber colleagues and members who helped us make all this happen. (And a reminder, once you deliver your good work and testimony, you’ll never get off the list!)

Interim study season begins before too long, then 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.