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Wind turbines carved out of legislation phasing out personal property tax

UPPER THUMB – In a huge victory for wind-turbine heavy Huron County, Michigan lawmakers have approved language protecting revenue from local wind developments to a Senate Bill.

“I think it was a great accomplishment,” said Sen. Mike Green, a Mayville Republican who represents the Thumb, as well as Bay and Arenac counties.

Senate Bill 1069, as passed Thursday, eliminates the tax for all new real personal property. But wind turbines and anything else that generates electricity for sale are excluded.

Green said this assures personal property tax on new wind developments will not be eliminated.

In addition to getting that language included in the bill, Green said he also met with Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who committed to working with Green to get wind turbine values back to where they were before the Michigan State Tax Commission in October 2011 voted to lower them.

Green said Calley also committed to work with Green to get wind turbines classified back to real property, instead of being classified as personal property.

All this happened after some eleventh hour negotiations, as the Michigan Renewable Energy Coalition, its attorneys and DTE energy and RES Americas officials got together to lobby lawmakers to carve windmills out of the bill phasing out the personal property tax, reports Mike Krause, member of the Huron County Economic Development Corp. and Michigan Renewable Energy Coalition.

“Rep. (Kurt E.) Damrow and Sen. Green made sure that our voice was heard, and deserve a huge thank you because without them, this would not have happened,” Krause said.

What happened was Green and Damrow were key in getting Calley and the Senate and House leadership aware of local governments’ concerns that if wind generation is not exempted from the bills, local governments would lose all the tax revenue from wind developments in their area.

“We really came out winners yesterday,” Damrow said Friday. He noted he and about five other lawmakers in the House with districts that are or will be affected by wind development really pushed for the bill.

“It got to the point where we were ready to block some bills,” he said.

Damrow noted he believes the Legislature sent around 250 bills to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk on Thursday and into Friday morning, and for Calley to be able to sit down and talk about concerns regarding revenue from wind energy developments was extremely beneficial.

“He really stepped up to the plate, which I didn’t expect anything less. … He just did a great job,” Damrow said.

Damrow, who lost his bid for re-election for a second term, said protecting revenue from wind developments has been one of his primary goals during his two years in the state House.

“It was really tough to protect the wind turbine taxes,” he said. “… (But) at the end of the day, it was very gratifying (to achieve that end).”

Green called wind turbines a savior for his district.

“If we had lost the wind mills … it would be a huge loss,” he said.