A “skinnied-down” bill that would provide a tax break to manufacturers of solar, wind and other renewable energy equipment who locate in Clark County cleared a major hurdle Friday as the Legislature rushed toward adjournment.
House Bill 2130, sponsored by Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee Friday morning in a version far different from that of the original bill. It still must survive final House and Senate votes on the state’s 2009-11 operating budget over the weekend.
Probst’s original bill would have given a 50 percent tax credit against the state’s business and occupation tax to any business that developed a renewable energy manufacturing facility in Washington, up to a maximum credit of $20 million.
The annual cost to the state would have been about $30 million.
In the latest version of Probst’s bill, the state’s costs would be capped at $2.5 million annually in 2010-11 and 2011-12, and $5 million annually thereafter.
Probst said he argued successfully that if lawmakers were going to downsize the bill, they should limit the break to companies that locate in Clark County.
“The credit is dedicated to Clark County because we are trying to build a base to make Clark County a major exporter of the components for solar and renewable energy,” he said. “If you look around the world, the places that export barrels of oil are doing really well. In the future, I want us to be a place that exports solar panels and wind turbines.”
The Clark County Economic Development Council wants the tax break so it can compete with other states and countries that are courting solar manufacturers.
Under the scaled-down bill approved by Senate Ways and Means Friday, companies that invest a minimum of $25 million in construction, machinery and equipment for a renewable energy facility would be eligible for two kinds of tax breaks: A two-year deferral of the state sales and use tax, and a credit worth up to 15 percent of their eligible investment against the state business and occupation tax.
Probst said his effort to win passage of HB 2130 has been “a wild ride. We thought it was dead, then it was revived.” Negotiations over the bill reached “the highest levels” of the Legislature, he said.
His measure is one of a handful of tax-break bills that have survived thus far in a session where lawmakers have grappled with how to close a projected $9 billion budget deficit.
Many of those are intended to provide incentives for the development of renewable energy and the use of alternative-fuel vehicles such as electric cars.
BY KATHIE DURBIN, COLUMBIAN – http://www.columbian.com/article/20090425/NEWS02/704259967