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Madison County’s $138 million boondoggle

Within two weeks, Madison County and its quasi-government Industrial Development Agency (IDA) will approve the transfer of the Fenner wind farm to the IDA. The sole purpose of the deal is to subvert the tax law.

Madison County’s PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) will cost taxpayers $138 million over its life since it will apply to all wind farms in the county. PILOTS are one-time-only, 15-year deals used as incentives to create jobs. County documents show exactly one full time job and two contractor jobs were created in Fenner. The old PILOT that cost taxpayers $17 million expired.

There is absolutely no reason to renew these PILOTS and give billionaires even more. The CEO of Vestas Turbines was quoted in a magazine as saying incentives are no longer necessary.

In order to leverage its negotiating position, the Fenner farm filed a bogus lawsuit. That’s the IDA’s excuse for this bad deal. Jefferson County wrote a brief opposing settling such suits. Why give billionaires $138 million in corporate welfare to settle a lawsuit that, if lost, would cost a few hundred thousand?

Cuomo will not save taxpayers from the IDA because renewables are a cornerstone of his anticipated 2020 presidential bid. So who do we hold accountable at the ballot box? Madison County Supervisor John Becker is seeking re-election this fall.

State Assemblyman John Salka will face re-election next fall. Besides being an assemblyman, Salka is a member of the IDA’s board of directors.

Al Szablak
Lincoln