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Archive for Friday, March 2, 2001

Power plant bill re-energized

Committee approves plan to give electric companies tax breaks

March 2, 2001

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— A House committee Thursday OK'd a bill giving companies tax breaks for building power plants.

The approval came just eight days after the proposal was defeated by the same committee.

Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, and vice chairman of the House Utilities Committee said the different outcome resulted from committee members having more time to study and get comfortable with the measure.

Sloan supported the bill, saying it is necessary to ensure that Kansas has enough electricity to meet future demand. Also, he said, the construction of the plants will provide more jobs and payroll.

The move to provide incentives for the construction of power plants comes at a time when officials are hinting that a company wants to build a $200 million plant in northeast Kansas.

Leavenworth County development officials have declined to name the company, but have noted that it has been difficult to develop new plants because of state property taxes on utilities.

If passed into law, the measure would allow companies to build coal-fired power plants that would sell power in an unregulated market.

The so-called merchant plants would be exempt from state property taxes for 10 years and then pay at a reduced rate.

The measure, however, has significant opposition.

Rep. Gene O'Brien, D-Parsons, and a member of the Utilities Committee, said he will try to notify people statewide about what he thinks the bill will do.

He said it will lead to deregulation of electric utilities and eventually higher prices.

"When we deregulate electricity, we are putting ourselves at the mercy of electric utility companies," O'Brien said. "They will be able to charge us whatever the market will bear."

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