Nebraska

Tax Incentive Evaluation Ratings

Tax Incentive Evaluation Ratings: Nebraska

Rating: Leading

Key points:

  • Nebraska is leading other states because it has a well-designed plan to regularly evaluate tax incentives, experience in producing quality evaluations that rigorously measure economic impact, and a process for informing policy choices.
  • The state’s first evaluation under its 2015 law included valuable analysis of the state’s largest incentive, including highlighting the program’s lack of fiscal protections.
  • Lawmakers on the Performance Audit Committee are working to continue to improve future evaluations.

Nebraska evaluation law

Year enacted: 2015.a

Who evaluates: Legislative Audit Office.

Length of review cycle: Three years.

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Nebraska lawmakers have begun discussing ideas for improving the Nebraska Advantage Act, the state’s largest economic development tax incentive.b A November 2016 evaluation of the program from the state’s Legislative Audit Office will help inform those deliberations.c

The evaluation was the first under a 2015 law that requires the office to evaluate Nebraska’s tax incentives on a three-year cycle.d It showed how the Advantage Act is performing on 13 metrics that lawmakers had identified as being important.e

One strength of the evaluation was its analysis of the Advantage Act’s long-term costs. The evaluation noted that the program could cost hundreds of millions of dollars in coming years and that it lacked protections to prevent the fiscal impact from increasing beyond the state’s expectations.f In response, the Legislature’s Performance Audit Committee recommended that lawmakers consider whether changes to the program are needed to ensure that it does not cause budget difficulties.g

The Performance Audit Committee also offered numerous recommendations on how the state could improve future evaluations, including by enhancing the data available to the audit office and by further clarifying both the goals of the Advantage Act and how to measure success. For example, while the evaluation included useful information on the impact of the program, the office did not have access to economic modeling software that could have allowed for additional economic analysis. The committee recommended that the audit office continue to work with another legislative office to include modeling in the evaluations. It suggested lawmakers may introduce legislation to help with the challenge if those efforts are not successful.h

Some of the states with the most rigorous evaluations, such as Indiana and Washington, have continually made improvements to their processes. With the Performance Audit Committee’s recommendations, Nebraska is well-positioned to follow their examples.

Endnotes

  1. Nebraska Rev. Stat. Ann. § 50-1209, http://nebraskalegislature.gov/laws/statutes.php?statute=50-1209.
  2. Paige Yowell, “Officials Looking Into Bigger, Better Nebraska Advantage Act Provisions,” Omaha World-Herald, Aug. 5, 2016, http://www.omaha.com/money/officials-looking-into-bigger-better-nebraska-advantage-act-provisions/article_fe3026bb-0e78-53d5-bf73-061d1864ce47.html.
  3. Nebraska Legislative Performance Audit Committee, “Nebraska Advantage Act Performance on Selected Metrics,” (Nov. 23, 2016), http://www.nebraskalegislature.gov/pdf/reports/audit/naa_2016.pdf.
  4. Nebraska Rev. Stat. Ann § 50-1209.
  5. Nebraska Legislative Performance Audit Committee, “Nebraska Advantage Act Performance.”
  6. Ibid., 49–51.
  7. Ibid., C.
  8. Ibid., A–C.
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Improving Tax Incentives for Jobs and Growth

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Tax incentives—including credits, exemptions, and deductions—are one of the primary tools that states use to try to create jobs, attract new businesses, and strengthen their economies. Incentives are also major budget commitments, collectively costing states billions of dollars a year. Given this importance, policymakers across the country increasingly are demanding high-quality information on the results of tax incentives.