Gov. Dave Heineman says he didn’t really like it, but he signed a bill providing wind energy tax breaks into law.
The governor’s office released this written statement by the governor:
“I signed LB 104 into law today because the most important issue in this bill is to protect Omaha taxpayers from a sales tax increase. As I said earlier, I do not favor the part of this bill that provides a Kansas company a special tax break, when the Legislature didn’t provide new, significant tax relief to Nebraskans.
“As Governor, if I had line-item authority for policy bills similar to my budget line-item authority, I would veto the special tax break for a Kansas company and keep only the portion of the bill that protects Omaha taxpayers from a sales tax increase. Today, the Platte Institute issued a report describing the wind energy portion of this bill as, ‘corporate welfare,’ and I share that concern.
“This was a difficult decision, but my most important priority is protecting Nebraskans from a tax increase.”
The statement didn’t faze the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha, who came under criticism earlier from the governor for supporting a tax break for a Kansas company.
“I think probably the reason it didn’t get vetoed is he took a look at the whole bill and came to appreciate the significant benefits to rural Nebraska from this addition to the Advantage Act,” Lathrop tells Nebraska Radio Network.
LB 104 allows wind energy companies to apply for the tax breaks offered through the Nebraska Advantage Act.
Lathrop says it will give rural Nebraska an economic shot in the arm.
“What we have done with our business incentives is to provide for, in most cases, benefits to Omaha, Lincoln and some of the larger metropolitan areas across the state,” according to Lathrop. “This is really the first and the most significant boost to rural Nebraska.”
Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha succeeded in amending the bill to include the repeal of the local option sales tax for Omaha.
The immediate beneficiary of LB 104 will be Trade Winds of Lenexa, Kansas, which will receive $16 million in tax breaks to build a $300-to-400 million wind farm in northeastern Nebraska’s Dixon County. The farm would be capable of generating 200 megawatts of electricity which would be exported to other states.
The wind farm would create up to 300 construction jobs with 20-to-25 permanent jobs. It is a 40-year project expected to pay $10,000 to $15,000 per tower to farmers in leases and between $700,000 and $800,000 in tax revenue for Dixon County.
The Unicameral approved LB 104 38-2 with eight senators not voting.