The debate over previous agreements made by Governor Jon Huntsman to exempt the controversial NSA Data Center located in Bluffdale from any taxes related to resource usage came to a head in the Senate yesterday.
Senator Jerry Stevenson (Republican – Layton) was defending his bill, SB 45, which addresses taxation issues for several federal government projects across the state, including several buildings located just outside of Hill Air Force Base.
Senator Jim Dabakis (Democrat – Salt Lake City) quickly turned the debate to the data center, calling the bill a “subsidy to the federal government that exempts them from a utility tax… This property is already getting a great deal on water, and creates very few jobs on a choice piece of land. Why do we want to give up that utility tax and have the rate payers from the state have to make up for what is really very little contribution from the rest of the federal government.”
Dabakis then asked Stevenson how much the utility tax exemption is costing the state. “Approximately $6 million a year,” Stevenson reported to the body.
“Church, various non-profits pay [taxes on power to assist the poor],” Dabakis noted, “why are we providing this giant [subsidy] that we are waiving to provide to the bureaucrats in Washington?”
Stevenson supported the decision, noting that the agreement between Huntsman and the federal government was a key reason the data center was constructed in Utah.
“I’ve asked, and I have not been able to be provided with it, any piece of paper that says as part of this agreement to bring this very low-job development… That here is commitment that the State of Utah makes [to the federal government] that you don’t have to pay the utility taxes.” Dabakis bemoaned during the debate.
[pullquote]”I don’t remember that I made any commitments to giving tax subsidies to a spy center.” Senator Wayne Harper (Republican – Taylorsville)[/pullquote]”There is a great amount of institutional memory that puts this agreement in place,” Stevenson replied, but noted that there was no physical document confirming the agreement.
Senator Margaret Dayton (Republican – Orem) noted that the agreement to not levy an energy tax was an agreement made by the state, even though it is local entities that are supposed to decide if energy taxes are to be waived. “[The data center is] not creating jobs, it is creating a lot of consternation in my area…[this was] not something discussed with the legislature as far as I am aware of.”
“I don’t remember that I made any commitments to giving tax subsidies to a spy center,” Senator Wayne Harper (Republican – Taylorsville) put bluntly when asking Stevenson why he was unwilling to specifically remove the section of the bill that would protect the NSA Data Center.
The bill did advance to third reading in the Senate on a vote of 22-7, however there were several “aye on two” votes, meaning that senators were interested in advancing the bill to the third round of debate in that chamber, but they are not necessarily committed to voting in favor of the bill outright.