Tax Exemption Bill for NSA Building Receives Support from Senate

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Curtis Haring contributed to this article.

A proposed bill that would prevent the state from giving tax or fee breaks to the new NSA data center was uncircled and passed by the Senate Tuesday morning.

SB 45, which is sponsored by Senator Jerry Stevenson (Republican – Layton), advanced with a 23-4 vote to a third reading in the Senate. The original text of the bill would allow the Military Installation Development Authority (MIDA) to not tax various federally owned military installations, including the controversial NSA Data Center facility located in Bluffdale for its power consumption.

The bill has been held up in the Senate since last Tuesday, when Stevenson first presented the bill to the body. An amendment was made by Senator Deidre Henderson (Republican – Spanish Fork) that would allow MIDA’s ability to levy an energy tax.

Stevenson endorsed the amendment. “I’ve worked with Senator Henderson on this, and I believe this is a friendly amendment. I’ve also worked with the parties that are involved in the military installation bill and we view this as friendly.”

The tax breaks were a major point of contention. During debate last Tuesday, Senator Wayne Harper (Republican – Taylorsville) said “I don’t remember that I made any commitments to giving tax subsidies to a spy center,” noting the lack of any formal agreement by then Governor Jon Huntsman and the federal government to cut a deal for the data center. Senator Jim Dabakis (Democrat – Salt Lake City), added during debate last week that “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.”

 “I am still not sure if they can impose the tax or not, or whether or not its optional,” Senator Lyle Hillyard (Republican – Logan) asked during the vote. Due to procedural rules, his question could not be answered, however the bill in its current form would still give MIDA the option not to tax the facility, and a tax free status would not be guaranteed.

Senator Stuart Reid (Republican – Ogden) joined Harper, Dabakis, and Hillyard in voting against the bill. It will now move to the House. 

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