Monday, March 17, 2008

Idaho Senate passes two bills for Areva plant

Incentives are aimed at landing a $2 billion uranium enrichment facility in Idaho

The Idaho Senate today passed two bills by 2:1 margins aimed at providing tax incentives designed to attract a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant. The site under consideration by French nuclear giant Areva is located west of Idaho Falls in eastern Idaho.

Both measures have already passed in the House.

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis told me in an email this morning that Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter supports both bills and indicated he will sign them if the Senate approves the measures.

Key to support for the bills was a concerted effort by community leaders in Idaho Falls including elected officials and economic development groups. Opposition to the bills came from two political perspectives.

Anti-nuclear groups, including the Snake River Alliance, lined up with Sen Diane Bilyeu, a Democrat from Pocatello, who bucked support for the bills by trade unions in her district. She opposed the bills in committee. On the Senate floor she voted for H 561 and against H 562.

Sen. Tim Corder, a republican from Mountain Home, opposed the legislation because he is against all types of tax incentives for business. He voted against both bills.

Idaho is one of five states in the running for the plant. The other states include New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Ohio. Areva is expected to select a site within a few weeks. The firm had said earlier that Idaho was "not competitive" with other states because of its lack of tax incentives. The passage of these two bills now levels the playing field.

Assuming Gov. Otter signs the bills, the ball will be in Areva's court. March madness anyone?

The Associated Press has additional coverage with some choice quotes from the floor of the Idaho State Senate -- pro and con.

Highlights of the legislation

Senator McKenzie H561

by Revenue and Taxation - SALES TAX - PRODUCTION EXEMPTION - Amends existing law to provide that the production exemption from sales and use tax shall be available to a business or separately operated segment of a business engaged in the business of processing materials, substances or commodities for use as fuel for the production of energy.

Senator Hill H562

by Revenue and Taxation - CAPITAL INVESTMENTS - PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTIONS - Adds to existing law to provide a property tax exemption for certain new capital investments over $400,000,000 in a single county.

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