Sing, O Muse, the anger of Landis, senator from Lincoln, and his struggle with the Revenue Committee in his attempt to revise the provisions of LB 775, which enriches the pockets of the business of Nebraska and impoverishes the coffers of the state.
The Revenue Committee met in executive session today to discuss several bills that Dave Landis had proposed to amend LB 775. The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, a number of large corporations including Con Agra and Union Pacific, and a multitude of lobbyists for "Nebraska entrepreneurs" had lobbied the committee hard to prevent LB 775 from being changed. At stake were the following proposals:
- A surcharge on tax credits and rebates to businesses under the bill
- A provision to disclose which businesses receive tax credits and how much they receive
- A minimum wage for businesses who get tax credits and rebates
- Other minor tweaking of the bill
Dave's priority was to get disclosure of the payments under the bill. I have to confess that when I learned this originally three months ago I thought he had abandoned the real fight, which ought to be to eliminate this tax kickback scheme altogether. But tonight as we sat over drinks, he talked about what really happened in the executive session:
"Those fuckers in the Chamber of Commerce blocked me," he said. "They wouldn't let me get disclosure." He was proud of what he had accomplished today: the minimum wage provision will go to the floor, and an exemption will be added to exempt meatpacking plants from LB775 (more on that in a moment). On the other hand, he didn't get his surcharge. And he was righteously angry about the blockage on disclosure.
You see, he wants the people of this state to know how much is being paid to these businesses under this ridiculous corporate welfare scheme. Once that cat is out of the bag, he is savvy enough to know that Nebraskans won't stand for it. That's why he didn't execute a frontal attack on the bill. He figured out that once the peepul learn the truth, we'll howl for Con Agra's head.
As for the exemption for meatpacking plants, I have a bit of a conflict on it. On the one hand, anything that hurts IBP or Excel is fine with me. But when I got to thinking about the reasoning behind the exemption, I got mad. You see, the purpose of LB 775 is allegedly to create good jobs for Nebraskans. Now think: who works in the meatpacking plants? Latino immigrants, both legal and illegal. There are damned few Anglos working ass-deep in cow blood for eight bucks and hour, sixty hours a week. If IBP or Excel pull out of Nebraska, who will get hurt? The Latinos who are here -- and if they leave, there are a lot of white Nebraskans who would be delighted.
Something about it makes me feel not very good. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I don't think so.
But the bottom line is this: Dave Landis is not at all happy with big businesses and he has enough experience and clout that it may come back to haunt them. I hope so.
This will all be reported in the newspaper tomorrow morning, and I'll add a link then.
FURTHER ANALYSIS REVEALS
The article on this appearing in this morning's Journal Star fills in some details on what was worked out in committee yesterday:
A smaller "incentive" program passed in 1987 would be eliminated. The program is known by its bill number, LB270, and is a supplement to the original "Job Creation Act" known as LB775. "Landis said LB270 has no incentive value. If the business grows, and a good accountant knows about the incentive, the tax credit will be taken, he said."
More specifics about the changes to LB775:
Other parts of the bill created by the committee would require that workers added to an LB775-qualifying project be paid at least $8.70 an hour if they have health insurance and $9.57 an hour if they do not.Now let's talk about the exemption for casinos and slaughterhouses.
In addition to barring any casinos or new slaughterhouses from qualifying for the tax breaks, the committee's bill would not allow ethanol plants to claim credits under both LB775 and another state incentive program known as the Invest Nebraska Act.
The new rural tier for LB775 created under the bill would require a minimum investment of $3 million and the creation of 20 jobs. The projects could only locate in counties with less than 20,000 people.
The proposal also would require information about qualifying companies now kept secret by the state Revenue Department to be shared with the Legislature's Fiscal Office for use in economic models, but not to be released to anyone else, including senators and news media.
Additionally, the number of employees working at a qualifying project would have to be released.
One might argue that casinos aren't "good" jobs -- they are, after all, the wages of sin, as it were. But as it stands now, one version of the proposal for casinos in Nebraska will grant permission for Native Americans to run casinos on reservation lands in the state. Who will work in these casinos?
And who does most of the work in the slaughterhouses?
It looks to me like these exemptions will have a discriminatory effect on Latinos and Native Americans and job creation in areas where they are to be found. If we're going to bribe businesses to come to Nebraska, shouldn't we bribe people to come where all Nebraskans are, not just where the white folks are?