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Wyoming House votes down wind tax revision

CHEYENNE – A tie vote in the Wyoming House on Tuesday blew away legislation that would have changed the way the state’s wind energy industry is taxed – and the way the tax revenue would be distributed.

But the bill may not be dead yet: The House is expected to hear a motion to reconsider the legislation today.

On a 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 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 nascent wind energy industry.

“It’s not perfect, but so what?” said state Rep. Pat Childers, R-Cody. “It makes us attractive to the wind power people.”

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 Rep. Jeb Steward, R-Encampment, also disputed claims by some wind energy industry groups that shooting down the legislation would deter wind companies from building projects in Wyoming.

“Reality does not support statements that Wyoming is not competitive,” Steward said. “Let’s not talk about hypothetical situations that … if we vote this down – like we should – nobody’s packing their bags and moving out of Wyoming. We just got the best wind in the country.”

Though HB 191 failed to get the 31 votes needed for passage on Tuesday, state Rep. Matt Teeters, R-Lingle, said he will file a motion to reconsider the legislation today. If the House approves Teeters’ motion, state representatives will then hold another vote on the bill.

State Reps. Bryan Pedersen, R-Cheyenne, and Lisa Shepperson, R-Casper, were excused from Tuesday’s vote because of a case of the flu and a doctor’s appointment, respectively.

If Pedersen – who voted for the bill in House committee – and Teeters – who voted “no” on Tuesday – vote for the bill today, that could be enough to pass it.

Bill Tracker

House Bill 191

* What the bill would do: Combine the wind excise tax and sales taxes into a single $3-per-megawatt-hour tax and change the way wind tax revenue is distributed.
* The latest: The legislation failed in the House on Tuesday by a 29-29 vote.
* What’s next: The House will hear a motion to reconsider the bill today.

How they voted

Here’s how members of the Wyoming House voted Monday on House Bill 191, which would change the way wind energy production is taxed and the way that revenue is distributed between the state and local governments:

In favor (29):

Berger, Blake, Blikre, Bonner, Buchanan, Burkhart, Byrd, Childers, Craft, Eklund, Freeman, Gay, Greear, Harvey, Hunt, Illoway, Kasperik, Krone, Lockhart, Loucks, Lubnau, Nicholas, Patton, Peasley, Petroff, Stubson, Throne, Vranish, Zwonitzer (Dan).

Against (29):

Barbuto, Botten, Brechtel, Brown, Campbell, Cannady, Connolly, Davison, Edmonds, Esquibel, Gingery, Goggles, Greene, Harshman, Jaggi, Kroeker, Madden, McKim, McOmie, Miller, Moniz, Petersen, Quarberg, Roscoe, Semlek, Steward, Teeters, Wallis, Zwonitzer (Dave).

Excused (2):

Pedersen, Shepperson.