Chamber Announces 2017 Legislative Priorities, Leaders

Chamber Announces 2017 Legislative Priorities, Leaders

Thursday, December 1, 2016 - 1:00pm

LINCOLN – As state lawmakers prepare for the 2017 legislative session that begins Jan. 4, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry has announced its major legislative objectives.  The priorities were approved by the State Chamber’s board of directors this week.  Some of the Chamber’s top legislative priorities for the new year include:

  • An Enhanced Workforce. The Chamber’s recent statewide survey of business leaders found that 80.4% of respondents said their community or business faced a workforce shortage, with skilled labor being highest in demand, followed by workers educated in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  Because Nebraska’s future growth depends on talent supply, the Chamber will support efforts to enhance Nebraska’s workforce and expand its skilled labor pool.  Examples may include new technological training initiatives; support for new internships in all industry sectors; improved processes for state licensing and certification; innovative education initiatives such as career academies for high school and middle school students; and recruitment of new workers.  
  • Modern Business Incentives.  The Nebraska Chamber is working with policymakers to find the best way to modernize the Nebraska Advantage Act – the state’s primary job-creation and business investment incentive program.  Since its implementation in 2006, the Nebraska Advantage Act has helped bring nearly 12,000 jobs statewide and roughly $6 billion in capital investments.  A recent state government report revealed that Nebraska’s incentivized businesses saw higher-than-average growth in full-time workers in most sectors, and that employees at those companies saw higher-than-average wages in 12 of 15 sectors.  Without business incentives, Nebraska would often miss out on economic development opportunities due to its high tax climate and other states’ incentives.  The Chamber supports continual review and enhancement of Nebraska’s incentives to keep the state competitive.
  • A More Competitive Tax Climate.  Nebraska’s top individual income tax rate is 6.84%.  This is the 15th highest state income tax rate in the country – and it takes effect at a relatively low threshold of just above $29,000 in earnings.  Nebraska’s top corporate tax rate is 7.81%, which is 16th highest.  The state’s high tax burden has negatively affected economic growth and job creation, and made the Cornhusker State less competitive nationally and globally.  The Chamber will support efforts to lower Nebraska’s top individual income tax rate, as well as harmonize the state’s top corporate tax rate with the individual income tax.  The Chamber will oppose efforts to increase state sales and income taxes; shift tax burden; or further earmark tax revenue for specific spending programs. 
  • New Housing Development.  In recent years, a majority of Nebraska communities – large and small – have experienced a shortage of available housing, regardless of price level.  The Chamber supports policy and program initiatives to encourage more private sector development of housing to meet current demand.  The Chamber also supports policies to encourage Nebraska residents to invest in new housing.

In addition to approving the Nebraska Chamber’s major legislative objectives, the Chamber board confirmed the election of the association’s leadership for 2017.  Dirk Petersen, vice president and general manager of Nucor Steel in Norfolk, will serve as the State Chamber’s new chairman.  Petersen officially begin his duties Feb. 2 during the State Chamber’s Annual Meeting in Lincoln.  He succeeds Omaha’s Steve Martin, CEO of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska, as the Chamber’s top elected officer.  Rich Herink of Lincoln, market president of First National Bank, will serve as the Chamber’s chair-elect.

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Below are photos of the Nebraska Chamber’s 2017 Chair Dirk Petersen and Chair-Elect Rich Herink.