Betsy Markey’s Latest Ad Really Blows; And The Scent In The Air Reminds Me Of A Greeley Feedlot

Democratic incumbent Betsy Markey is starting to look desperate. 

Markey has a new ad out accusing Republican challenger Corey Gardner, a state legislator, of writing a bill “calling for a brand new tax on the wind.”   The ad goes on to say that Gardner’s bill “calls for taxing the wind that blows across Coloradan’s private property.”  Since Gardner has campaigned against raising taxes during a recession, Markey labels Gardner a hypocrite. 

What a crock.  The reference in teeny-tiny fine print at the bottom of the ad to support the claim is to HB10-1158, which is available here.  It is a bill “Concerning Clarification of the Right to Use Wind Resources.”   The purpose of the bill is to “clarif[y] the ownership of the right to use wind flowing across real property within this state, and specif[y] that, for purposes of determining the priority of uses between a severed mineral interest and a severed wind interest, the first interest severed is dominant.”

In other words, the point is to make sure landowners may sell the right to use wind above the surface of their property, such as to utilities for wind power generation, just as landowners may sell separately the right to extract minerals from underneath the surface, such as coal. 

The operative language is as follows (with capitalization modified to improve readability:

Ownership of the wind interest is originally vested in the several owners of the surface, and the wind interest is a property right that can be severed from the surface ownership.

HB10-1158 Sec. 3(2)(a).  The next section states how severed wind rights can be sold:

A conveyance of the surface ownership of real property is a conveyance of the wind interest unless ownership in the wind interest has previously been severed from the surface ownership or is explicitly excluded or reserved in the conveyance. Ownership of the wind interest may be conveyed in the manner provided by law for the transfer of mineral interests in real property.

 HB10-1158 Sec. 3(2)(b). 

The bill says nothing — not a single word — about taxes.  So Markey’s statement that the bill “calls for taxing the wind that blows across Coloradan’s private property” is false.  It is a lie. 

Markey is apparently relying on a Fiscal Note to HB10-1158 drafted by someone else entirely, which states in relevant part as follows:

By clarifying that wind rights can be separated from property, it is likely that county assessors would have needed to create a separate wind rights tax schedule and to value that right for tax purposes, if they were not already doing so. 
So there may be some tax allocation impact.  But it is in no way a “brand new tax” as Markey contends.  If assessors do their job right, the tax effect is exactly $0.

If you sell some of the rights you have, whether surface rights (such as a lease) or subsurface rights (such as mineral rights) or above surface rights (such as the right to use wind), the value of what you retain is decreased.  The total value of the property, and therefore the total taxation, remains the same.  The value of the property, and therefore the taxes, are simply allocated among more persons.  The seller’s taxes decrease in accordance with the value of the rights that were sold; the buyer is then responsible for paying the property tax associated with the value of the property purchased.

So let’s summarize.  Markey accuses Gardner of hypocrisy for drafting a bill that says nothing about taxes, but will place landowners who want to participate in “clean power” generation on the same footing as landowners who sell the right to use their land for coal mining.  Meanwhile, this is what Markey says about energy policy on her campaign website:

We have a unique opportunity at this time in our history to change the way we power our country and Colorado is poised to become a world leader in this effort. Our state’s wind, solar and agricultural energy supplies offer opportunities to create jobs, protect the environment, and break our dangerous dependence on Middle East oil. The future of renewable energy is vital to the future of our national security.

So Markey is for using our state’s wind supplies to generate power, yet she is against allowing Colorado landowners to sell the right to use the wind flowing across their property to power generators.  By doing so, she would favor coal mining over wind power generation.  Who’s the hypocrite?

Published in: on October 14, 2010 at 1:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

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