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Wind turbine taxes remain an issue

BAD AXE­ – The Huron County Board of Commissioners is still hoping for a legislative solution to its dispute over the taxation of wind turbines.

Commissioner Steve Vaughan talked at Tuesday’s meeting about a conference he had on Monday, discussing state Rep. Kurt Damrow’s House Bills 5278 and 5279.

“There is still a possibility of getting these bills to the floor,” Vaughan said.

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 dispute’s roots go back to the fall of 2011 when the state tax commission lowered the taxable value of wind turbines. Wind turbines went from a 100 percent assessment in year one, with a scheduled depreciation to 30 percent value in 15 years, to an 80 percent initial assessment, with a depreciation to 30 percent value in six years.

Vaughan said they needed to figure out once and for all if the legislation could bring about a solution.

“If we can get them to the floor (of the House) they can either aye it or nay it. It’s a possibility that could go in our favor, or it may just die right there. But I’d like to see it at least move to the floor.”

To get to that point the legislation would have to get through the tax policy committee. The house resumed its session Tuesday.

Vaughan said a different piece of legislation by state Sen. Mike Green (R-Mayville) was dead in the water because the classification of wind turbines back to personal property would have cost energy companies three times as much, before comparing it to Damrow’s bills.

“This is revenue neutral,” Vaughan said. “This is what they said they would do. This is what we want.”

Vaughan said that the legislation has the support of the Michigan Association of Counties, but had not been able to attain that of the Michigan Township Association.

With Damrow (R-Port Austin) in the final days of his term in office, Vaughan said Rep. Paul Muxlow (R-Brown City) would spearhead the legislation if action was not taken before the end of Damrow’s term.

In related news, there had been talks at the previous meeting about commissioners going to Lansing to lobby for wind turbine tax revenues on behalf of the county.

Commissioner John Nugent said that he and Chairman Clark Elftman would not be going,instead allowing representatives from the county’s Economic Development Corp. to do so.