This story was originally published in the Nebraska Examiner.
LINCOLN — Nebraska needs to seek its $91 million share of federal Inflation Reduction Act funds set aside to make homes as energy efficient as possible, a state legislative committee was told Monday.
State Sen. Carol Blood said the state can’t afford to let its portion of the $700 billion act go to another state. That happened last year when then-Gov. Pete Ricketts rejected $120 million in federal rental and utility aid for Nebraska.
“This is an opportunity for us to use tax dollars that are already allocated for us. We’ll give it up to other states if we don’t use it,” Blood said.
“We talk about running government as a business,” she added. “That’s bad business.”
72 letters of support
A parade of witnesses, and 72 letters of support, backed Blood’s Legislative Bill 560 during a public hearing before the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee.
It would require the state to “seek all funds made available” through the Inflation Reduction Act or IRA. The act includes rebates for weatherization projects in homes and businesses, funds for electric vehicle infrastructure and support of agricultural practices that are drought resistant and use less water and fertilizer.
One supporter of the bill, Eric Moyer, a solar panel installer from Lincoln, said the IRA is also a jobs bill, with up to 25 people involved in engineering, designing and placing such panels.
“These are jobs for local guys, whether they live in Crete, in Lincoln or out in North Platte,” Moyer said.
Ken Winston of Nebraska Interfaith Power & Light said a significant portion of the IRA funds are directed toward low-income households, which often must spend higher portions of their income on energy costs.
But Blood said it’s unclear whether the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy is seeking the federal IRA funds.
One testifier on Monday said he had participated in several video meetings about distributing the federal funds and had not encountered any Nebraska officials.
Time is of the essence, Blood said, because state have a March 31 deadline to file a “notice of intent” to seek the IRA funds.
The Examiner reached out to both the NDEE and the office of Gov. Jim Pillen on Monday.
Programs still under development
Carla Felix, an NDEE spokeswoman, speaking for the state, said many of the programs under the Inflation Reduction Act are still being developed at the federal level “and not yet available.”
“There is not one single application for all of them,” she said. “As they are rolled out, we will evaluate to determine how they might fit into our existing authorities.”
Bayard Sen. Steve Erdman questioned whether LB 560 could be advanced by the committee and passed in time to have an impact, given the March 31 deadline and the slow pace of floor debate in the Legislature this year.
Blood said she had faith, adding later that the bill isn’t necessary if the NDEE and the Governor’s Office move to obtain the federal funds.
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