The West Virginia state Senate on Saturday voted to repeal a tax cut for wind power projects in the state.
The body voted 25-6 to pass SB 16, which would revoke wind turbines’ classification in the tax code as pollution control facilities.
Current law has turbines taxed at 5 percent of their value.
Sen. Randy Smith, R-Tucker, spoke in favor of the bill. He said when the Legislature created the tax break in 2001, it should have added a sunset clause. He added that other industries don’t receive as generous a break.
According to figures he provided, the repeal would bring in $8 million in revenue by 2019. Of that, $3.4 million will go to the state, $1.8 million to school boards, and $2.8 million to county commissioners.
Speaking against the bill, Minority Whip Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, said the state provides similar tax breaks to several other industries including specialized manufacturing, aircraft and high-tech property.
He said the Legislature’s rationale is inconsistent across economic groups.
“We provide this arbitrary and arguably unconstitutional tax treatment to all different types of industries and objects,” he said. “Why we’re singling one to pull the rug out from under them, but continue to provide it for all other types of industries is beyond my comprehension.”
Palumbo proposed an amendment during the bill’s second reading Friday that would revoke those tax breaks. The Senate voted it down via voice vote.
Smith works for Mettiki coal, and has taken campaign contributions from the coal industry, according to campaign disclosure reports to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office.
The bill will next go to the House of Delegates for consideration.
Also Saturday, the Senate:
- passed a bill transferring control of the state’s Medicaid fraud unit from the Department of Health and Human Resources to the Attorney General’s office. With no discussion, the Senate voted 24-7 on the legislation, SB 500.
The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has recovered more than $56 million during the past five years, according to DHHR officials cited in an earlier coverage.
The move, effective Oct. 1, 2017 if passed, would bring all employees over from the unit at their same salary.
The bill also mandates a study on or before Dec. 31, 2020 to compare the program’s efficacy under the Attorney General’s office to its former home.
Following the vote, the chamber sent the bill over to the House of Delegates for deliberation.
- passed a bill to block the state from implementing Common Core academic standards in the future and requesting a replacement.
The body voted 23-8 on SB 524, which will not bind the state to any new standards but leave it to the Board of Education to develop and implement a new curriculum.
Education Committee Chairman Sen. Kenny Mann, R-Monroe, called the passage the “nail in the coffin on Common Core.”
Under the bill, the Common Core prohibition starts July 1, 2018. Until then, the West Virginia Board of Education will develop new academic standards.
Once they develop those standards, they will be subject to a 60-day written comment review period and at least four public hearings.
For more information on the revised bill, see previous coverage from the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Following the vote Saturday, the Senate sent the bill to the House of Delegates for review.
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