The Legislature's Revenue Committee on Thursday moved a newly designed business attraction and development incentive package to the floor, eight weeks after the original proposal encountered considerable pushback at its public hearing.
The bill (LB720) would create a new tax incentive program to succeed the 2005 Nebraska Advantage Act, which is due to expire in 2020.
The amended bill cleared the committee on a 6-0 vote, with one senator not voting.
"When you are sitting across the table from a CEO or their (business) team asking them to locate in your community, you have to be competitive with other states when it comes to incentives," said Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward, the bill's sponsor.
Following the blowback that the bill received at its committee hearing in early March, Kolterman said supporters "added a tremendous amount of accountability, transparency and a focus on the ease of doing business" to the proposal.
The package — called the Imagine Nebraska Act — focuses on "performance-based incentives" along with workforce development initiatives, he said.
Kolterman is also pushing for targeted university scholarships tightly narrowed to degrees determined as high demand, high wage and highly skilled.
"We are providing a small but crucial investment in our youth for them to help grow our state," he said.
"The amount any student can receive per year under this program will be the average cost of a year's worth of tuition for an undergraduate enrolled at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln," Kolterman said — approximately $10,000.
The plan envisions an equal match from the state, the university that the student attends and private business, about $3,500 each.
Under terms of the business attraction bill, tax benefits would be targeted according to a range of factors, including the number of jobs created or expanded, the amount of investment and wage figures that are tied to the project.
It was the cost of incentives that concerned some members of the committee at the public hearing in March, with a couple of senators pointing to $454 million in obligations already in place and $1 billion in total obligations that will be incurred under the existing Nebraska Advantage Act.
Incentives have helped contribute to creation of 100,000 new jobs and $30 billion in capital investments under the state's current and previous business tax incentive programs, Kolterman said.