House OKs ending renewable-energy tax break for businesses

Legislation to replace the state’s renewable energy mandate with a non-binding goal will head to the governor’s desk.

Gov. Sam Brownback has already indicated he will sign SB 91, which was crafted during a series of closed door meetings between lawmakers, representatives from the wind industry, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and other groups.

The bill trades the state’s renewable energy mandate, which requires utility companies to receive 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020, in favor of a nonbinding goal. The bill also would cap a property tax break for new wind energy projects at 10 years.

By accepting the changes to current law, the wind industry will avoid a 4.33 percent excise tax on wind energy production.

The House passed the measure by a vote of 105-16 Thursday. Hours later the Senate also approved it by a vote of 35-3.

Environmentalists, who were not included in the talks, have harshly criticized the policy change.

The House had already passed a version of the legislation earlier this month, but it when House and Senate members met on the bill it was amended to include language that would end a lifetime property tax exemption for businesses using a renewable energy source, such as wind or solar energy, to help meet its electricity needs.

During a House GOP caucus meeting Thursday, Rep. Tom Moxley, R-Council Grove, blasted this addition, which had been sought by utility companies. He contended that utility companies oppose this tax break “because they like a monopoly” and said lawmakers should oppose monopolies.

However, when the bill came to the floor for a vote, Moxley voted in favor of it. It passed by a 105-16 vote.

He said afterward that he opposed that change but still supported the overall bill, which has been backed by both the Wind Coalition and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. He criticized Rep. Dennis Hedke, R-Wichita, for accepting it during negotiations.

Language also was also added to enable utility companies to recover costs incurred in meeting the 20 percent goal and in complying with the existing 15 percent mandate. Another provision says electricity generation facilities, which predominantly produce energy through renewable sources, do not qualify for a commercial and industrial property tax break.

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or blowry@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.