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Darin: Let’s turn wind into an economic opportunity for our state

Darin: Let’s turn wind into an economic opportunity for our state

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Editor:

We know Wyoming faces significant economic and budgetary challenges. We should encourage new job-creating, big-property-tax-paying, big-sales-tax-paying businesses to help our state diversify and thrive.

That’s why we oppose current proposals that single out wind with new and higher taxes, which is just bad policy. The proposals -- planned for discussion at the Revenue Committee on November 20 -- would impose higher tax rates on wind-generated electricity and increase taxes again by removing the three-year period before the electricity tax applies.

Both proposals harm Wyoming businesses, landowners and homeowners.

Wyoming already imposes a sales tax on all retail electricity sales, which consumers ultimately pay. Wyoming employers and families don’t need another electric bill hike, especially those in electricity-intensive industries like trona mining, natural gas, and data centers. Many private landowners lease their property for wind projects, developing more revenue for their communities. Wind projects are keeping local businesses busy during these trying times. Tax increases risk eliminating those opportunities.

It’s a fallacy that Wyoming can export tax hikes to consumers in other states. Wyoming has strong renewable resources, but so do all its neighbors. Utilities purchasing Western renewable energy will buy the lowest-cost renewable energy option in open, competitive bidding processes where all projects compete. University of Wyoming analysis shows no other Western state imposes a wind taxation trifecta like Wyoming, with full set of separate sales, property, and electricity taxes, already making Wyoming less attractive than its neighbors. A project that doesn’t get built because it is priced out of the market means zero jobs and zero revenue brought in.

If all nine wind projects that Wyoming has permitted since 2014 get selected for power purchase agreements in upcoming competitive bidding processes, that’s a $10 billion investment. Over their lifetimes, these projects could collectively provide 3,500 construction and permanent operations jobs and over $1.5 billion in new sales, generation and property taxes. They won’t do any of that if they don’t get built.

Wyoming leaders need to maintain a competitive tax structure so wind businesses can create new state and local revenue streams as part of the state’s economic diversification strategy.

TOM DARIN, Jackson

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