SPRINGFIELD – Thanks to the duration of this year’s record-breaking legislative overtime session, lawmakers are poised to vote on a plan that would establish a uniform method of assessing wind farms for property tax purposes.
The proposal is the result of months of talks involving Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, county assessors, local governments, wind-energy companies and others.
They were unable to reach an agreement before the legislature’s scheduled adjournment date of May 31, but they’ve had better luck since.
“For me, the overtime session has allowed the opportunity to have all of the major players sit down in the cafeteria down here (in the Capitol) and negotiate this bill,” Mautino said Monday.
At present, Illinois counties use different methodologies to assess wind farms. That complicates property assessments for wind farms that cross county lines.
The proposed wind-farm assessment formula is one component of the latest version of House Bill 664, which also would phase out an existing 7 percent cap on property assessments in Cook County. The Senate Revenue Committee on Monday voted 9-0 to advance that bill to the Senate floor.
To become law, it still must pass in the Senate, in the House and be signed by the governor.
Under the legislation, a wind farm installed in 2007 would pay a tax of $9,000 per megawatt. That figure would drop slightly each year because of physical depreciation of the wind devices.
If enacted into law, the measure would expire – or “sunset” – after the 2011 tax year. The sunset date is meant to enable lawmakers to gauge how well the law is working.
“By the time we get five years down the road, we will have probably 1,000 of these in the ground,” Mautino said. “And then we’ll be able to see if those taxes are keeping pace with what we expect.”
Mautino said the negotiations took so long to reach a successful conclusion because “this will be the first time there’s a uniform standard for an entirely new industry that’s just been created, so you want to get it as close to right the first time as you can.”
The agreement on how to tax wind farms will spur companies to invest more than $1 billion in the industry in Illinois, he predicted.
“They needed certainty,” Mautino said. “They didn’t want to go into a county that would charge them $9,000 this year per megawatt and then $60,000 next year.”
Wind farms are a relatively new but growing industry in Illinois. For example, a wind farm has been built in Lee County, and another has been proposed near El Paso.
By Adriana Colindres
Gatehouse News Service
7 August 2007
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