By Eric Galatas, Public News Service - Nebraska
The coronavirus pandemic has caused many Nebraska businesses to shutter, and is forcing others to pause plans for future growth.
Nebraska lawmakers are considering proposed updates to the state's Nebraska Advantage Microenterprise Tax Credit Act, originally passed in 2005.
Johnathan Hladik, policy director at the Center for Rural Affairs, said boosting the credit will help Main Street mom-and-pop businesses recover.
"Every Nebraska community has felt the consequence; every rural community has felt the consequence," Hladik observed. "And the Microenterprise Tax Credit can help these businesses recover by encouraging and facilitating strategic new investments."
Legislative Bill 366 would increase the maximum lifetime credit from $10,000 to $20,000, which Hladik said is necessary to keep up with rising costs.
The measure also would allow family members to use the credit so long as the businesses and ownership are completely separate, and would extend the program through 2024.
Legislative Bill 74, a measure calling for ending the tax credit and moving resources to the Business Innovation Act, was indefinitely postponed by the Revenue Committee.
Microbusinesses make up more than 85% of all businesses in Nebraska.
Andrea McClintic, executive director of the Dawson County Area Economic Development Council, said the tax credit is currently the only option available for small, family-owned businesses that communities depend on.
"Your dentist, and the convenience store, the grocery store, the flower shop; all of those microbusinesses would be able to utilize these funds that don't qualify for the majority of other state or federal programs," McClintic explained.
Legislative Bill 366 also would require more detailed reporting and greater transparency to help lawmakers decide if the program is a good investment.
Hladik noted many lawmakers don't realize the program's impact on job creation in the state.
He pointed to a 2018 Audit which found that the cost per job created through the Microenterprise Tax Credit was between $2,000 and $10,000.
"And that is a tremendous return on investment," Hladik contended. "We've seen programs through the Nebraska Advantage Act, the state's primary business incentive tool, cost about $300,000 per job."