Perhaps the most significant missing ingredient in the debate over tax breaks for wind-electricity projects in South Dakota is a spread sheet showing, by existing project, the taxes paid, the taxes forgiven or rebated, and the taxes projected through the lifespan of each installation. It also would be worthwhile to see a spread sheet about the potential effects on taxes and tax breaks from wind-power legislation offered in 2013 session. Perhaps the state Department of Revenue could collect this data and present it to the Legislature.
There is a major bill introduced by Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center. Its lead sponsor in the House is Rep. Roger Solum, R-Watertown. The bill is SB 195 and it has been referred to the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee, chaired by Sen. Ried Holien, R-Watertown. The Legislature appointed a special task force in 2011 to study wind energy, chaired by Rep. Solum.
The tax analysis becomes highly important because, as one wind-power advocate told me in a conversation last week, “Jobs shouldn’t even be part of the discussion.” Jobs are important to consider. There are the jobs at the wind-blade plant at Aberdeen, for example, and during the construction phase. But it is true that wind farms aren’t big producers of ongoing jobs. Once the towers are and the turbines are turning, the major benefit at that point is the tax revenue. It would be worthwhile to know whether the tax breaks given up front are worth the tax revenues ultimately received.