A [Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns] spokesman told legislators the solar developers' bill would "create preferential tax treatment for ALL renewable energy projects and tax them differently from any other revenue-generating commercial operation,'' pushing those lost revenues onto other taxpayers. --- [Green Development] was founded by Mark DePasquale, who along with other political contributors who list Green Development as their employer have given more than $92,000 to Rhode Island office-holders and candidates since 2015. That includes $4,300 to McKee.
PROVIDENCE – Gov. Dan McKee, the onetime mayor of Cumberland, has allowed a bill providing a tax break to solar-energy developers to become law without his signature, despite strong opposition from the cities and towns.
In a year in which he vetoed no bills, the solar developers’ tax break was one of at least 112 bills – and possibly more, not yet evident online – that McKee allowed to become law without any action on his part.
Others in that category included:
A bill giving cities and towns an opportunity to get waivers to a state law mandating that all “single-user toilet(s)” in public buildings be available for use by persons of any gender and a slew of local bills, including one raising the “affordable housing eligibility-standards for households” on Block Island.
Asked why Democrat McKee – who often casts himself as a sympathetic advocate for the cities and towns – allowed the solar developer relief bill to automatically become law on the Saturday of the July 4th weekend, his press secretary, Alana O’Hare, said:
“House Bill 8220A was passed by the General Assembly with a veto-proof majority.”
She said the fact there were no vetoes at all “is representative of the governor’s strong collaboration with the General Assembly and [its leadership] throughout this legislative session.”
Solar developers bill faced defea
The solar developers’ bill was at the center of an eleventh-hour rescue effort by Senate leaders on the last day of this year’s legislative session.
The short version: The Senate Committee on Housing and Municipal Development defeated the legislation promoted by Green Development, owned by a big political donor, Mark DePasquale, and Revity Energy, a former client of House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, on a 4-to-3 vote.
In the face of this defeat, Senate leaders did a loop-de-loop.
They called a vote on the separate but matching House-passed version of the bill (H8220) by a different committee – the Senate Judiciary Committee. Within hours, it was on its way to 28-to-10 approval by the full Senate and ultimately, the governor.
The thickly worded tax legislation boils down to this: “The real property on which they are located shall not be reclassified, revalued or reassessed due to the presence of renewable energy resources.”
As Nicholas L. Nybo, a representative of Revity Energy, explained the intent to legislators: “All assessments on real property with renewable energy resources thereon shall revert to the last assessed value immediately prior to the renewable developer’s acquiring an interest in the real estate.”
The Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns tried to head it off, with this argument:
“Large solar installations have been built in many communities, particularly in southern and western Rhode Island because of the availability of open space.
“In those communities, solar projects are taxed like other revenue-generating operations. A tangible tax is applied to the equipment itself – in this case, a standardized amount in most if not all communities – and a real property tax is levied on the land.”
A League spokesman told legislators the solar developers’ bill would “create preferential tax treatment for ALL renewable energy projects and tax them differently from any other revenue-generating commercial operation,” pushing those lost revenues onto other taxpayers.
The other side of the argument?
“While Revity has enjoyed great relationships with many cities and towns … there are municipalities that have imposed drastic mid-cycle re-assessments on real estate developed for renewable energy,” Revity’s Nybo wrote lawmakers earlier this year.
He cited Hopkinton, as an example.
“Prior to Revity purchasing the property, the assessed value of the property was $305,800. In tax year 2020, after Revity purchased the property and developed (a solar) project, the assessment increased to $1,619,300.
“In tax year 2021, the assessment increased again to $2,969,300. Revity now owes $55,021.13 in property taxes which is on top of the $69,375 in tangible taxes that Revity pays Hopkinton.”
“There is no knowing how high this assessment will skyrocket over the next 25 years absent some reform,” Nybo wrote in his written testimony.
Bottom line, he said; “The arbitrariness of certain municipalities’ tax assessment practices vis-à-vis renewable energy developers renders these important projects less financially viable.”
House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, a lawyer, has in the past represented Revity in some of its past solar developments.
Green Development also sent lawmakers a letter urging support of the bill.
Green was founded by Mark DePasquale, who along with other political contributors who list Green Development as their employer have given more than $92,000 to Rhode Island office-holders and candidates since 2015. That includes $4,300 to McKee.
McKee last year vetoed a bill pushed by a single renewable-energy developer – DePasquale – that could have shifted millions of dollars in the costs of solar and wind projects from developers to ratepayers.
In his first veto message after becoming governor, McKee said: “This bill will have the effect of shifting millions of dollars of costs from developers of renewable energy… to National Grid ratepayers.”
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