CARSON CITY -- A key Senate panel voted Thursday to keep alive a solar-energy tax break measure after being told the abatements will help bring solar projects to Nevada rather than to other solar-rich states such as California and Arizona.
Senate Taxation Committee members sent SB331 to the Senate Finance Committee for additional review after being told that industry-sponsored studies show that Nevada's current tax abatement policies, set to expire this year, should be continued and enhanced.
The bill would cut property taxes imposed on solar energy generating facilities by 75 percent for 25 years, and would abate local school support taxes imposed on property used in construction or operation of such facilities by 75 percent for 10 years. Other taxes for education wouldn't be cut.
The abatements make Nevada more attractive to solar energy companies than other Southwest states, said Mike Alastuey, representing Las Vegas-based Applied Analysis.
Alfredo Alonso, representing California-based solar company Ausra, said solar energy development would help Nevada's economy and that abatements are an "important piece of the puzzle to attract companies to come here."
Taxation Chairman Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, said he's OK with abatements, but added there must be some form of incentives for Nevada residents, possibly in the form of cheaper energy.
Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, said he wanted to make sure that solar energy companies considered the effect sales and property tax abatements would have on individual counties.
"Have your employers talked to local governments to make sure they're on board with this as well?" McGinness asked company representatives.
Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, said it was important to discuss how solar energy developments would be financed "because of the issue of the freeze in credit markets."
Les Lee Shell of the Clark County Department of Finance said she wasn't opposed to the abatements but added, "These things have a potential economic impact on local government and our ability to provide services."
Educator Bart Mangino, representing the Clark County School District, said the tax abatements could result in lost revenue for schools "at a time when education has already made substantial budget cuts due to reduced revenues."