LINCOLN — Nebraska’s next governor won’t get a pot of money to use in luring or keeping businesses after all.
State Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha pulled Legislative Bill 729 from the agenda Monday after it became clear that the measure had lost too much support to advance.
The measure would have created the Quick Action Closing Fund within the Department of Economic Development that the governor could have used to help land a high-impact business project or facility or to keep a business already located in the state. A high-impact business would be one expected to create a net benefit, through jobs and investments, compared with the cost of the incentive.
Assuming a project met the necessary requirements, including thresholds for jobs and salaries, the bill would have given the governor the discretion to award the funding.
But several senators on Monday objected to giving that kind of power to the governor, including Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk, who argued that the bill would diminish the Legislature’s power over the state purse strings.
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“Our ancestors fought a war to get rid of the king,” Flood said.
Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard said the proposal would give governors “a slick way to pay back political favors” without much control by legislators.
“You tell me if that isn’t a slush fund,” he said.
Supporters of the proposal took issue with the term “slush fund,” describing the fund as an extra tool that the state could use in trying to compete with other states for businesses.
Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenberg said he has seen cases in which Nebraska lost out because state officials could not offer enough incentives under existing laws. Supporters said the fund could have helped in situations when the Legislature is not in session and cannot react quickly.
“I think LB 729 sends a clear message that we are open for business,” Williams said.
Lindstrom, who is a Republican candidate for governor, said LB 729 was inspired by a similar program created in Oklahoma in 2011. He said that program has awarded about $14 million to seven companies, which resulted in the creation of 3,500 jobs and $3.4 billion in investments by those companies.