UPPER THUMB – In regard to the elimination of the personal property tax, Sen. Mike Green says no matter what’s proposed at the state level, he does not want to see the area lose tax revenue from wind turbines.
“That’s going to be foremost on my mind during deliberations,” he told the Tribune Thursday.
Green, who represents the 31st District, which includes Huron, Tuscola, Sanilac, Bay and Arenac counties, said he does not believe wind companies will get away with not paying taxes.
“There is discussion about different ways of getting local revenue for wind mills if the personal property tax gets written off,” he said.
Green’s comments came after Huron County commissioners on Tuesday expressed concerns about Senate Bill 34 (SB 34), which eliminates all personal property taxes. The concerns are two-fold. First, the county receives roughly $479,000 in personal property taxes businesses pay on equipment. That figure does not include the amount all levels of government – including schools, cities, villages and townships – collect in personal property taxes. That figure also does not include the $230,000 the county receives in personal property taxes from the area’s wind farms.
Second, the only taxes from alternative energy systems (including wind turbines) that the county, local governments and schools receive is personal property tax.
If SB 34 becomes law, it means the area would lose all tax benefits it would receive from future wind developments, and benefits from the area’s two existing wind developments will be no more once their respective Industrial Facilities Tax exemptions (IFTs) expire, Huron County Commissioner David Peruski, who chairs the Finance Committee, said earlier this week.
Currently, the county receives about $230,000 in personal property taxes from the area’s two wind farms. That’s not including the amount local units receive. Last year, wind turbines in just Bingham Township paid more than $514,000 to local units, Huron County Treasurer Sherry Learman told the Tribune earlier this week.
If SB 34 were approved, the only ones to benefit from wind developments in Huron County would be landowners with wind leases.
Senator: Entire area should benefit from turbines
Green told the Tribune wind developments should benefit the whole community because “they have to look at the turbines.”
“I will not support SB 34 in its form as it is right now,” he said, noting he’s spoken with the bill’s sponsor, Mike Noffs (R-Calhoun), to keep abreast of the bill’s progress. As of now, there have been some hearings, and it’s still in the Senate Committee on Finance.
“ … This is a prime example of a revenue stream that needs to look at,” Green said. “Most people don’t like to look at the wind mills – to some people, it’s money in their pocket, to others, it’s just an eye sore. But we’re able to temper the eyesore with revenue to the county that will help the whole county. I understand that, and I know that we are going to look at that. And I can’t tell you for sure, but we’re going to deliberate very carefully before we make any decision on (the) personal property tax.”
Green favors conditionally eliminating PPT
“I guess you can say any tax is unfair, but this tax seems to be more hurtful,” Green told the Tribune.
He noted the personal property tax is hurtful to small business and larger companies, and it’s more hurtful than the Single Business Tax or Michigan Business Tax.
“I knew it would be an issue when I came,” said Green, who added he didn’t campaign supporting eliminating the personal property tax, “but it’s always been my thought that it’s one of the most unfair taxes.”
Green said he sees both sides of the issue, from the business side and from the government side, as government lives on the revenue and business pays the revenue.
He said he sees local communities that will have a windfall of personal property tax from windmills and solar energy farms, and he’s “very concerned about them losing that revenue.”
So Green favors eliminating the personal property tax for businesses that have 25 or fewer employees, he said.
“And I also say that we need to find a place to replace the revenue,” Green added.
Other bills proposed to eliminate PPT
Since Tuesday’s discussion of SB 34, Commissioner John Bodis told the Tribune he’s found another proposed bill, House Bill 4102 (HB 4102), that’s been introduced in efforts to eliminate personal property tax.
That bill, which was introduced by Rep. Mark Meadows (D-East Lansing), was accompanied by a separate bill, House Bill 4103 (HB 4103), titled, “The Personal Property Specific Tax Act.” The proposed act has certain provisions that give local schools and governments the ability to not exempt alternative energy personal property from paying personal property taxes.
Local units of government and schools would have to adopt a resolution to not exempt the alternative energy personal property from the taxes collected in the respective local tax collecting unit within 60 days after receipt of the certification of alternative energy personal property, according to the proposed act.
Bodis, who chairs the Huron County Board of Commissioners Legislative Committee, said earlier this week that just because a bill has been introduced, does not mean it will become law. He noted, however, he is keeping a close eye on things as they are proposed in Lansing.
Green told the Tribune there are a lot of bill flying around Lansing, and a number of them will make people ask, “What’s going down there?” But the legislators will get their cue from what Gov. Rick Snyder is proposing in his budget, which he will release Thursday.
As a result, Green said, he wouldn’t get too alarmed over some bills trickling in Lansing because what Snyder does on Thursday will take precedence over everything.
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