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Wyoming House rejects wind tax bill

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming House blew away legislation today that would have changed the way the state’s wind energy industry is taxed – and the way the tax revenue would be distributed.

By a tie 29-29 vote, the House rejected House Bill 191, which would have combined the upcoming $1-per-megawatt-hour wind energy tax and the sales tax on wind energy equipment into a single $3-per-megawatt-hour excise tax.

It would also have changed the way that tax revenue would be distributed and create a $15 million impact assistance account to help local governments pay for infrastructure costs associated with wind energy projects.

Right now, existing wind farms would pay the $1-per-megawatt-hour excise tax when it takes effect in 2012. A sales tax exemption on renewable energy equipment is set to expire at the end of this year.

Supporters said the proposal, which was supported by most within the state’s nascent wind energy industry, would bring in slightly more revenue for state and local governments than the current tax system. At the same time, they said, the plan would also encourage growth in Wyoming’s wind energy industry.

Opponents, though, voiced concern about allowing an industry with an uncertain future to pay taxes over a number of years instead of up front.

State Reps. Bryan Pedersen, R-Cheyenne, and Lisa Shepperson, R-Casper, were excused from voting.

It was unclear immediately after the vote whether there would be any attempt to hold a reconsideration vote on the bill.

Read more about this story in Wednesday’s Star-Tribune.