November 26, 2012

Turbine tax credit, jobs at risk

Reforms in Washington could erase a break that has fueled wind farm projects in Maine.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: Wind power

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Payne said representatives of the wind energy industry recognize that the tax credit will not go on indefinitely, so they are "at the table" talking about how and when to phase out the credits.

"But prior to any decision on a phase-out, there has to be an extension first," Payne said.

Cole, whose Washington, D.C.-based organization is the advocacy arm of the industry-tied Institute for Energy Research, was largely dismissive of those discussions.

"Until they come to the table with a concrete plan ... and all parties can agree this is right, I really don't think we are going to support some one-year, two-year or 20-year phase-out," Cole said. "They have had a 20-year phase-out already."

Another, less-controversial tax credit being watched in Maine is the New Markets Tax Credit program, which provides a 39 percent tax credit for investments in economic development projects in low-income areas.

Portland-based CEI Capital Management -- a for-profit subsidiary of Coastal Enterprises Inc. -- has been awarded $778 million for distribution to projects nationwide under the New Markets Tax Credit program. Roughly $221 million of that money has flowed to projects in Maine, leveraging $550 million in investments, according to CEI officials.

Prominent Maine projects that have used the tax credits include:

The 241,000-acre Katahdin Forest deal that kept Millinocket-area land as working forests.

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute's research facility on the Portland waterfront.

The acquisition and renovation of the Lancaster Building in Monument Square for Youth Alternatives, a social services provider.

Charlie Spies, CEO of CEI Capital Management, said the tax credits have helped create or retain an estimated 1,700 jobs in Maine.

"It's a very effective tool for moving capital, and that capital is going into projects that are generating jobs," Spies said.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican who serves on the Senate Finance Committee that handles tax policy, said the program has "facilitated innovation and job creation from the establishment of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to reinvestments in our forest products industry in northern Maine."

Snowe is co-sponsor of a bill with Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., that would extend the program for five years with an annual allocation of $5 billion.

"It is critical we pass this legislation to reauthorize the NMTC program authority, which expired at the end of 2011," Snowe said in a statement. "Additionally, I will continue to seek ways to improve the program and make it available to more communities and entities."

But McBride, with the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation, listed the New Markets Tax Credit as among the "tax extenders" that should be allowed to expire, describing it and many of the green-energy tax items as programs used primarily by special interests.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

kmiller@pressherald.com

Twitter: @KevinMillerDC

 

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Today's poll: Wind power

Do you favor federal tax credits for wind power investments?

Yes

No

View Results