Sales tax limitation amended into wind energy incentive bill, advanced

Senators advanced a bill from select file May 21 that would incentivize companies that create sources of renewable energy to locate in Nebraska.

LB104, introduced by Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop, would expand the definition of qualified business to include renewable energy producers in the existing incentive tiers. It also would define sources of renewable energy to include wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, biomass and transmutation of elements.

Papillion Sen. Jim Smith introduced an amendment specifying that eligible renewable energy providers would be defined using the definition of certified renewable export facilities, which already is in statute.

Smith said that energy accounts for a large portion of Nebraskans’ expenses and should be addressed in a more comprehensive manner.

“We have great, valuable resources in our state in the form of wind energy,” Smith said. “We can do a more constructive, thoughtful, long-term approach to bringing on more renewable energy in our state.”

Lathrop opposed the amendment, saying it would negatively impact Nebraska companies.

“This bill is an opportunity to provide economic development to [rural Nebraska],” he said. “This amendment turns the bill into an export-only bill. If Omaha Public Power District wants to enter into a project with a Nebraska developer, they wouldn’t be able to take advantage of [the incentives].”

The amendment failed on a 14-23 vote.

An amendment introduced by Kearney Sen. Galen Hadley, adopted 25-0, would require prospective wind energy developers to invest a minimum of $20 million in qualified property.

Lathrop supported the amendment, saying it would allow smaller projects to take advantage of the incentives proposed in LB104.

“When you look at where we are in terms of potential and in terms of development, you have to ask what is the barrier,” he said. “When we develop wind energy [at our potential], the companies who make the towers will come here because the business is here and the work is here.”

A technical amendment to the Hadley amendment was adopted 25-0.

An amendment introduced by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, adopted 30-5, would incorporate some provisions related to LB266, also introduced by Chambers.

The amendment would reduce the maximum local option sales tax a city of the metropolitan class could levy from 2 percent to 1.5 percent. It also would require that any revenue resulting from an increase in a metropolitan class city be used only for public infrastructure projects. Currently, Omaha is the only metropolitan class city in the state.

The bill was advanced to final reading on a voice vote.

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