BAD AXE — New turbine developments may get the wind knocked out of their sails, as Huron County commissioners on Tuesday discussed putting a halt to new wind developments until tax issues are resolved by lawmakers in Lansing.
Ron Wruble, who chairs the Huron County Board of Commissioners, said it’s clear in recent meetings with officials in Lansing that legislation repealing — or attempting to repeal — personal property tax will be on the table and possibly acted on sometime in the fall.
Given the area’s receptiveness to wind developments has been as a result of the tax revenue paid wind companies pay in personal property taxes for wind turbines, Wruble proposed when looking at future requests for wind overlay districts that will be coming up in the near future, county officials should look carefully and maybe even “put the brakes on these things until things get settled in Lansing.”
Wruble noted if the county approves several wind projects before the taxation issue is resolved, the county will have no leverage and “we’re going to look at turbines that will give absolutely no benefit to the populace of this county,” he said.
Commissioners John Nugent and John Bodis agreed this is a good idea because it will result in developers putting additional pressure on state lawmakers to get this issue resolved.
“We’re obligated to all constituents,” said Commissioner Steve Vaughan. “If the taxation isn’t there … it’s not beneficial to all our constituents as a whole.”
Commissioner Clark Elftman concurred — on the condition the county could do it.
“To restrict free enterprise, can we actually do that?” he asked.
“If we had a referendum vote in this county like we had back in November, and the question mark over taxation on these things was out there, would it pass or fail?” Wruble responded.
“That’s not the point,” Elftman said.
“That is the point,” Wruble countered.
“Well it is — if we can do that,” Elftman replied.
Commissioner David Peruski said one viable solution to the taxation issue is a proposal State Sen. Mike Green previously stated he will introduce in legislation that would change the designation of wind turbines from industrial personal property to real property.
“This may be the most realistic proposal, in my opinion, to resolve the taxation of wind turbines,” Peruski said.
Green is opposed to the personal property tax, but he’s maintained there still must be a mechanism in place to tax wind turbines, because turbines currently are classified as industrial personal property and only pay personal property taxes. As a result, if the Legislature votes to eliminate the personal property tax, the area will lose all tax benefits it would receive from future wind developments.
Green, who represents Huron, Tuscola, Sanilac, Arenac and Bay counties, said he’s requested a bill that would classify wind turbines as real property, so if the personal property tax is eliminated, areas with wind developments still would benefit on a county-wide basis.
“We believe this is a reasonable compromise, it allows wind turbine taxation to be consistent. … It also allows (a) more realistic evaluation of turbines,” Peruski said. “We’re working on that issue. We’ve had meetings with (State Rep. Kurt E.) Damrow and (Sen.) Green and other officials about this, and I think that might be the way to go on that issue.”
The Huron County Board of Commissioners will meet next at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Room 305 of the County Building.