Residents already know that we wont see a cent of LNG money, but the town might not either.
Only one argument has been put forward for why building the massive WE Energies liquefied natural gas complex in our community would be good for Ixonia: MONEY.
I'd like to offer some perspective on the Utility Tax Shared Revenue payments that WE Energies is promising the town if they build the LNG storage tank complex here.
I know about this tax because for two years I was Jefferson County's representative on the board of the Wisconsin Counties Utility Tax Association. The association is a Madison-based lobbying organization created for only one purpose: To protect the utility tax from the many forces constantly attempting to reduce the tax, eliminate it or grab all the money.
Every two years, there is the threat of the state scooping up all or part of this tax revenue and dumping it in its own general fund to pay for state operations and programs. The state can do this and the potential for it happening is increasing. This year may pose a heightened threat with the state projecting a budget deficit of $250 million.
In addition, utilities and energy companies from all over Wisconsin have been lobbying state government for years to eliminate this tax or reduce the tax rate. This would, of course, reduce or end the amount of money going to counties and towns. These corporations do not like having to pay this tax.
Also, keep in mind that the tax revenue to local governments can fluctuate from year to year under the formula the state uses to assess the tax, which is based on actual activity of the facility. And, when the facility is closed or deactivated the revenue disappears. Even a mammoth and expensive nuclear power plant can be shut down when it is deemed not profitable anymore as happened with the Kewaunee Nuclear Power Station in Kewaunee County.
WE Energies cannot promise you that Ixonia will get this revenue year after year because they do not control the money. The state does. And, at the same time the company is touting this money as a boon to Ixonia, they -- and their utility associations and all their lobbyists -- are working to reduce or eliminate it. And the revenue is always subject to the ups, downs and transitions of the energy industry, not to mention the grasping hands of state budget officials.
A developers agreement may keep the revenue flowing if the tax is reduced or eliminated. But, if the tax continues to be assessed and paid by WE Energies to the state and the state retains the revenue for its own use, an increasingly likely scenario, the town is out of luck. And money.
The bottom line: This is not a revenue source you can count on. It could very well be cut, killed or funneled entirely into the state's general fund before the Ixonia WE project is even completed.
This is not money our town board should bet the future of Ixonia on.