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Sat., March 6, 2010, 1:45 p.m.

WA Lege Day 55: Tax debate on solar and coal

OLYMPIA -- Republicans tried unsuccessfully to strip out changes on tax exemptions for solar projects.

Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, said the Legislature is trying to encourage solar energy projects, and should keep the exemption.

Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island, says it's designed to spread money around among community solar projects, not have all the grant money go to mega projects.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, argues there's no fiscal impact: "I don't understand we are so worried about something that doesn't raise any revenue."

It fails on a voice vote.

Debate moves to an amendment to save an exemption to the Centralia Steam Plant, that foregives the sales tax that would be paid on the coal it buys to run the plant.

The state made a deal on the exemption in 1997 and should live up to it, said Sen. Dale Brandland, R-Bellingham: "For us to just pull the rug out from them on what I think was a legitimate deal, is sending the wrong message."

Sen. Randy Gordon, D-Bellevue, says the exemption " has outlived its usefullness. It was a local company and Washington coal, now it's a Canadian company using Wyoming coal.

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, counters, "It might be a Canadian company, but the people who work their are Americans, 200 good family wage jobs."

Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, argues that the exemption is "not a birthright. We can't even get an exemption for out of state wind." The company is looking at alternative energy sources, losing the exemption for buying coal will help push them in that direction.

Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, says "a deal has two sides." State got a promise it would get something in return, coal mining jobs in Lewis County, but it stopped mining its coal and put the miners out of work. "If it wants the exemption, it can go back to mining coal in Lewis County."

Republicans argue about the effect of taxes on businesses, and Sen. Val Stevens reads a letter from a constituent that talks of government treating workers like serfs.

Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, begins to talk of "a new kind of McCarthyism."

That prompts Sen. Mark Schoesler to leap to his feet and demand, in a point of order, that Lt. Gov. Brad Owen warn Kline that talking about McCarthyism is "taking this in a direction you've asked us not to go." Owen says he doesn't know what direction Kline was going, because Schoesler interrupted him too quickly.

Kline said he was just tired of people interchanging socialism and communism and progressivism, and using it to argue against a tax bill.

Amendment fails 20-26 on a roll call vote.


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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.