By MATT WALTERS
Capital News Service
LANSING – New legislation may encourage the use of small-scale clean-energy devices, such as solar panels and small wind turbines, by exempting them from property taxes.
The goal is to make such devices more affordable, said Fred Schaible, legislative director for Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Grand Rapids, one of the main sponsors.
The other main sponsor is Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor.
“More people are installing these small-scale devices in residential settings and are getting hit with large property taxes because their property value rises,” Schaible said.
Schaible said property tax increases discourage homeowners from putting in clean-energy devices, which in turn hurts the economy.
“An individual will spend upwards of $1,000 to install these devices on their property, but when the property is re-assessed, they find themselves paying even more. It isn’t encouraging for the future of clean energy,” Schaible said.
He said property tax rates vary by municipality, and millage rates in rural areas may be lower than in urban areas.
He said the tax breaks would advance the clean-energy industry in Michigan.
“We want to help fuel this growing segment of the economy. Even if the device isn’t built in Michigan, local contractors would still be hired to install them,” Schaible said.
Samantha Harkins, legislative associate at the Michigan Municipal League, an Ann Arbor-based advocacy group that represents cities and villages, said the organization hasn’t adopted an official position on the legislation but its stance would depend on the bill’s impact.
“Generally, we don’t support tax cuts like these. Property tax revenue is important to cities and municipalities, especially with the limited means of revenue they have these days,” Harkins said.
However, Harkins said clean energy is an initiative it supports.
“Sustainability and clean energy is important to all of our members and good for the growth of our state’s economy. Whether we would be in favor of cutting property taxes to do it depends on how much revenue it would cost cities,” Harkins said.
Both bills are in the Senate Energy and Technology Committee.
Co-sponsors include Sens. John Proos, R-St. Joseph; James Marleau, R-Lake Orion; Coleman Young II, D-Detroit; Mike Nofs, R-Jackson; and Steve Bieda, D-Warren.
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.