PPL Tax Protests

The Tribune has an editorial today about the fact that our local School Board has elected to spend some of the tax money presently under protest by the owners of our dams, PPL Montana. I don't know enough about the issue to question the School Board's actions, although I can certainly understand the pressure they must be feeling.

I do not believe PPL is a good corporate citizen. When there was talk of an eminent domain action to seize the dams, the publicly proclaimed the dams were worth billions of dollars. Then, when it came time to value them for tax purposes, they claim they weren't worth very much at all.

My question is a more basic one. Article IX, Section 3(3) of the Montana Constitution provides: "All surface, underground, flood, and atmospheric waters within the boundaries of the state are the property of the state for the use of its people and are subject to appropriation for beneficial uses as provided by law." [Emphasis Added]

So, why in the hell are those a**holes at PPL allowed to use our water for free?


Treasure State Jew said...

Didn't MPC get a loophole for H20 used for power generation somewhere?

After all, they (or at least their masters at Anaconda) did own the State government when they built the dams.

SallyT said...

You make valid points, GeeGuy, especially about the water issue. There's a topic for research & debate, eh?

Every time I see an article about how government is so deprived by tax protests, my question is: if the state raised your property taxes over 10% a year, wouldn't you protest the taxes? This seems to be the Montana trend for all the utilities. Why doesn't anyone question those tax hikes? (Or maybe it doesn't matter to most until it's their own property?)

I'd been thinking we all should pay under protest, tie up the funds & starve the government of cash...but, apparently, if they really want the money, the government entities can just take it...hmmm...how, exactly, does that work?

Gman said...

Gee Guy, define "good corporate citizenship"? Are you suggesting the corporations "owe" the community something?

Furthermore, PPL's use of Montana's water is not consumptive. And, they are using the water to benefit us -- they create that thing called electricity. I'd like to think the profit motive assists in this endeavor.

I kind of agree with Sallyt, but it would be better to come up with well thought out, palatable ideas on how to revamp our tax system in Montana. According to the Small Business Survival Index (http://www.sbsc.org/Media/pdf/SBSI_2005.pdf), Montana has the 38th friendliest tax system in the U.S. We're 18th lowest in electric utility rates. We have more bureaucrats per 100 residents that 37 other states.

What we need is some serious proposals for a tax law overhaul. Here's a good tool to that effect: http://www.beaconhill.org/STAMP_Web_Brochure/StampOverview.html.

melodious said...

I agree that PPL is a not a good corporate citizen. Losing the dams will be the loss of the century for Montana, maybe even worse. We need to get those damn dams back somehow. The Repos did this.....when will they be held responsible?

Gman said...

GeeGuy, I might add a question: isn't the taxable value and the market value of the dams two different values? The taxable value of PPL's dams are not the same as their market value. And, doesn't PPL have a right to protest their taxes? And, doesn't PPL contribute to the communities in which they are located via the jobs (read: wealth) they support in the community, not to mention charitable efforts?

Corporate responsibility is really encompassed in one task: profit maximization within the rule of law. And, don't read into "rule of law" all gov't regulation. By "rule of law" I mean profit maximization that doesn't infringe on the rights of others. Excessive pollution infringes on the rights of others, so you can't pollute to maximize your profit.

Melodious, Montana never owned the dams. MPC, a vertically integrated monopoly, but a private entity nonetheless, did.

SallyT said...

spot on, gman.