September 29, 2012

Wind turbine tax issue up to lawmakers

By Nich Wolak, Tribune Staff Writer | Huron Daily Tribune | 28 September 2012

BAD AXE – Huron County Commissioner Steve Vaughan said that he is hopeful a Wednesday meeting of state Rep. Kurt Damrow (R-Port Austin) will bring progress on wind turbine tax valuations.

Damrow and county commissioners are hoping that House Bills 5278 and 5279 move closer to the house floor. The bills would set tax rates on wind turbines based upon energy production capacity, with 40 percent of the tax revenues going to the county, 40 percent to the township, and 20 percent to the public school district.

The topic came up again at this week’s county commission meeting.

“We believe we have the support we need to get it to the floor for a vote,” Vaughan said. “The reason that we’ve been pushing it so hard, is that it’s one of the best possibilities that we have right now. What I want to do is exhaust that possibility before we move on to another one.”

Vaughan said that he had recently reached out to members of the Michigan Township Association and Michigan Association of Counties to garner support for the bills.

When contacted Wednesday, Damrow said that his meeting with Michigan House of Representatives Chair Jud Gilbert (R-Algonac) and Rep. Paul Muxlow (R-Brown City) went well.

He said that he has had conversations with all members of the house’s tax policy committee. The committee would need to have a second hearing on the bills and vote in favor of them for the bills to get to the house floor.

While Damrow said he thought the committee would vote in favor of the bills, he said the process would still take a while.

A second committee hearing has yet to be scheduled, and the house only has one session scheduled in October.

“We’re down to the last minutes on this one, but we’ve been pushing every day making phone calls,” Damrow said. “… This means so much to our area, this money.”

Commissioner Ron Wruble had previously brought up the idea of having a moratorium on wind turbine projects until an agreement on tax values was made with the state.

He said at Tuesday’s meeting that he had decided against writing a moratorium resolution for the time being.

“There has been some movement or some progress I feel,” Wruble said. “We’ll wait and see what happens in the near term. … I’m not ruling that out as a possibility. We have to maintain what we want.”

Wruble, who acts as the board’s finance chair, also released the new county budget, which will be $13,249,842. He said he will give a breakdown of the budget at the next meeting of the whole in October.

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