If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Right? That might be the motto Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, has lived by during the 2011 legislation.
Eskridge has sponsored at least five different versions of a bill that would give renewable energy projects a sales tax rebate until the end of 2014. Most versions of the bill were held in committee, but one managed to pass committee and the House floor.
The bill hit a roadblock in the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee. The chair of that panel, Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, said that the measure might run afoul with the Idaho Constitution, because it contains language about tax policy and energy policy. The constitution states that legislation should focus on a single subject.
The new bill, House Bill 347, focuses only on the tax rebate for renewable projects. If the bill passes the Senate and is signed by the governor, most projects would have until Dec. 31, 2014, to claim rebates. Those who do claim rebates must have projects in production of electricity by the deadline.
Wind projects, however, would have to have all contracts signed by Oct. 31, 2011. That provision was inserted into the legislation because stakeholders wanted to allow 18 contracts pending before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC) finish the approval process. A lobbyist for wind energy developers said that the 18 projects were crafted with the tax rebate in mind and that yanking the rebate could lead to some projects being cancelled.
Eskridge told colleagues that providing the incentive for projects will bring investment and additional tax dollars in to the state.
Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Soda Springs, said the state’s subsidy of wind energy should end and that the free market should be allowed to function. “Let’s not incentivize an industry that has grown bigger than its need,” said Andrus.
Several lawmakers complained that wind energy projects would increase power rates, but one legislator said that’s not the concern of the Legislature. “We are not in the ratepayer business,” said Rep. Bill Killen, D-Boise, adding that the IPUC is tasked with dealing with power rates.
The measure passed 47-29 and will receive a committee hearing in the Senate Wednesday and will likely be fast-tracked to help legislators end their work by the end of the week.
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