LB 348 – Eliminate Licensing, an Excise Tax and Other Provisions of the NE Potato Development Act
Good afternoon, Chairwoman Brasch and members of the Agriculture Committee. My name is Nicole Fox, and I am the Director of Government Relations for the Platte Institute for Economic Research. Thank you, Senator Larson, for introducing LB 348. I am here today to testify in support of this bill.
Nebraska faces a workforce shortage, and occupational licensing creates a significant labor force issue. Nearly 200 different occupations in Nebraska require a government license, affecting nearly 1 in 4 workers. This is negatively impacting small businesses trying to hire employees, potential entrepreneurs wanting to start a business and individuals seeking a means to earn an honest living. Reform of occupational licensing laws to lessen burdensome regulation is an economic issue that needs to be addressed.
Occupational licensing laws were initially created as a means of protecting the public from negligent and unqualified workers, but more and more, instead of protecting the public from harm, we now understand that occupational licensing is making it difficult for new workers to enter the workforce, entrepreneurs from starting a business or for business owners to grow an existing business.
Currently, Nebraska law requires persons involved in the shipping or selling of potatoes grown in Nebraska to seek a potato shipper occupational license. Requirements for potato shippers are unjustifiably more onerous in Nebraska than in nearly all other states. In fact, when researching the licensing of potato shippers across the country, the Platte Institute learned that only one other state licenses potato shippers, and that state is Michigan.
Licensing poses a financial barrier to small businesses, and often the cost is passed on to consumers by raising the price of goods and services. Currently, the Nebraska Potato Development Act requires that each potato shipper track the number of pounds of potatoes grown in Nebraska that are sold or shipped annually. Each potato shipper must then pay and remit to the Department of Agriculture an excise tax not to exceed 2 cents per 100 pounds of potatoes sold (Nebraska Statute 2-1807). These taxes are then directed to the Nebraska Potato Development Fund, a fund where money currently just sits. A study by the Heritage Foundation showed that occupational licensing reform could save Nebraska households over $900 annually. It is evident that Nebraska's current licensing requirement for potato shippers imposes a financial burden to Nebraska families.
LB 348 will eliminate potato shipper licensing and terminates the Nebraska Potato Development Fund. This will make Nebraska more competitive with our neighboring states and lessen the red tape currently imposed on our state's potato shippers.
The Platte Institute for Economic Research strongly supports occupational licensing reform as a means of lessening burdens to those trying to start or grow a business and earn an honest living. I ask that you advance LB 348 out of committee.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I am happy to answer any questions the committee may have.