Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Helium tax

Senate Revenue Committee unanimously votes for ad valorem tax on helium

The state should go ahead and impose a property, or ad valorem, tax on helium gas produced in Wyoming, the Senate Revenue Committee declared Tuesday.

In a noon hour hearing of HB 287 – Helium property tax, the committee unanimously approved imposing the tax, just as the state imposed a severance tax last year. The bill passed the House last week on a 47-12 vote.

The state had collected severance and property taxes on the extraction of helium between 1986 and 2004 from Exxon (later ExxonMobil). The company produces large quantities of the gas at its LaBarge plant in Lincoln County. The gas is among the “impurities” Exxon takes out of natural gas it extracts from federal lands in western Wyoming.

But the gas is extracted under a contract with the federal government rather than a more traditional lease on the minerals. The company challenged the tax, and in 2007, the Wyoming Supreme Court declared that the current statutory definition of “taxpayer” does not include an entity extracting helium under a federal contract as opposed to a federal lease.

In response to the court, the 2008 Legislature amended the definition of taxpayer for the purpose of imposing severance taxes; HB 287 does the same for ad valorem (property) taxes.
The bill now moves to general file for its first hearing when the Senate sits as the Committee of the Whole.

Workers Comp amendments up Wednesday

The Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee will consider HB 54 – Workers compensation amendments Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. The bill reflects considerable work over the interim and includes increases in benefits such as a cost of living adjustment for injured workers living on permanent total disability and increases in death benefits.

The House passed the bill 60-0 earlier in the session.

The ESPC, the AFL-CIO, the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association and a number of other groups affiliated with the ESPC support the bill. These supporter believe system should treat workers and employers eqaully and fairly.

It should ensure that workers receive the medical care needed to restore them to health and a productive work life as quickly as possible. It also should provide indemnity benefits that are sufficient to protect injured workers and their families from being devastated financially after a work-related injury.

No one should go broke because they went to work one day and got hurt.