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Key Republican behind wind taxes

GAGETOWN – Lt. Gov. Brian Calley reaffirmed his commitment to establish an agreement between the state tax commission and the Michigan Renewable Energy Collaborative regarding the taxation of wind turbines during his visit Friday to the Thumb.

“There is a review that is happening on the depreciation schedules, which is the main point of contention.” Calley told the Tribune. “I expect in very short order there will be a compromise that everyone will be satisfied with.”

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.

However, local assessors and boards of review can go by the old depreciation schedule if they feel it more accurately describes the true cash value of turbines.

When that happened in Gratiot County’s Wheeler Township, DTE decided to file an appeal with the Michigan Tax Tribunal.

Huron County officials, along with officials from other turbine-heavy counties, such as Sanilac, Mason and Tuscola, saw the potential for the same thing to happen to them. They decided to form the collaborative with Gratiot County, in an effort to support their cause and share legal A compromise between the commission and the collaborative could set a precedent that would garner Huron County millions of long-term taxable dollars on its wind turbines.

A different tax concern of locals was avoided when the Michigan Legislature elected not to include wind turbines in its phase out of the personal property tax.

“That’s meant to remove that tax on mobile equipment that can be used to make things anywhere in the world,” Calley said. “It was not intended to be used on stationary things, such as a windmill that is a fixed (object). We made (it) very clear in the legislation that the windmills themselves would continue to be treated exactly as they are today, and will not receive the tax breaks that are applied to manufacturing equipment.”

The Tribune also touched on the subject of dredging in Lake Huron with the lieutenant governor.

“There is still a tremendous need,” Calley said. “I know we had a wet spring, and that is fantastic and lake levels are somewhat higher, but the dredging of our ports of refuge is long overdue. So we still need to do most of those projects. The Legislature did appropriate resources in order to do that. And I expect that work will be ongoing all summer.”

Calley was at the Octagon Barn as the keynote speaker for Friday’s Lincoln Day Dinner, an annual event thrown by the Huron and Tuscola County Republicans.

His speech focused on the current administration’s efforts in balancing the budget and increasing deregulation.

Calley asked the partisan crowd to stay united in voting Republican no matter which candidate comes out of primaries, before adding that the 84th District state representative seat currently occupied by Democrat Terry Brown was one that was ripe for the picking by the GOP.

“The representative you have right now is a really nice guy. He just votes wrong,” Calley said, causing the audience to giggle.

With 145 tickets sold, it was the most attended Lincoln Day Dinner yet. The night also saw several area conservatives receive awards, and other speakers.