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Utah can still tax NSA, but probably won't

Published February 25, 2014 5:43 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

After long debate over whether to give the NSA Data Center a $6 million tax break on its electric bill, the Senate passed a bill Tuesday that keeps the authority to tax the center intact, but makes it unlikely the state will ever actually levy the tax.

The disagreement stemmed from a promise that was made by former Gov. Jon Huntsman to the National Security Agency that the state wouldn't tax the agency's energy consumption, forgoing about $6 million in revenues.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, proposed formalizing that agreement and repealing the Military Installation Development Authority power to tax the NSA.

But that proposal met with resistance from senators who objected to giving a tax break to the massive spy center.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said the bill got tied up in "black helicopter" issues and Stevenson said it was bogged down by Edward Snowden and news of the NSA's spying tactics.

Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, amended Stevenson's SB4502, allowing MIDA to retain the taxing authority. Stevenson, however, said MIDA probably won't ever actually try to impose the tax on the NSA and, if it did, it would probably result in court fights.

Stevenson's bill passed the House 23-4 and goes to the House for consideration.

Meantime, Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin, released his bill Tuesday that prohibits political subdivisions from helping the NSA with its mission or assisting in any way with the NSA data-collection mission. Roberts said he also intends for the bill to prohibit state agencies from assisting in the data collection and to prevent universities from helping develop technology used in the surveillance.