Passage of spending package is a victory for electric co-ops
Christmas came just a bit early for electric co-ops in Wisconsin and across the nation when Congress passed an appropriations bill and President Trump signed it just hours before the government spending agreement ran out bill December 20.
Among the cooperative priorities included in the bill:
- The RURAL Act The act addresses unintended consequence of 2017 tax law that threatened the tax-exempt status of electric cooperatives. The bipartisan legislation ensures that co-ops that accept government grants for things such as disaster assistance or broadband expansion are not at risk of losing their tax-exempt status.
- The SECURE Act The SECURE (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement) Act reduces premiums electric co-ops in the Retirement Security Plan pay to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation by adjusting the formula to more accurately reflect the lower risk. It also provides nondiscrimination testing relief for co-ops in the Retirement Security Plan or in their own defined-benefit plans that are “closed” to new employees but continue to provide benefits.
- Repeal of Cadillac Tax This repeal permanently eliminates the 40 percent excise tax on health care coverage provided through an employer-sponsored group health plan.
- Broadband Expansion Commitment has been renewed to the USDA ReConnect Broadband Program by allocating $555 million to finance the deployment of rural broadband, and $35 million for the USDA Community Connect Program.
- US AID Cooperative Development Program A commitment of $17 million was made to the US AID Cooperative Development Program, which helps fund electrification efforts such as the NRECA International program that Wisconsin co-ops participated in this year, which brought power to a Guatemalan village for the first time.
- Repeal of Parking Lot Tax A measure was repealed that would have taxed parking,
transportation, and other benefits provided to employees by non-profit employers, at a
rate of 21 percent.
Tackmann to lead Oakdale Electric
Chris Tackmann took the helm as the new general manager of Oakdale Electric Cooperative, effective January 13. Tackmann comes to Oakdale from Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services, where he served as vice president of member and administrative services. Tackmann takes over for Bruce Ardelt, who retired in January after 30 years with Oakdale.
Tackmann holds an undergraduate degree in business administration and management information systems from University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He also holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He joined Pierce Pepin in 2002 as an intern and was hired full-time in 2003 after graduating college.
Dairyland Power CEO Nick announces retirement
Barbara Nick, president and CEO of Dairyland Power Cooperative, has announced plans to retire in July 2020.
Nick joined Dairyland as president and CEO in December 2014, after serving in leadership roles at Wisconsin Public Service Corporation/Integrys (now WEC Energy Group).
She has more than 30 years of board service on various profit and nonprofit boards. She is serving a six-year term on the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB), which includes oversight of state funds valued at over $100 billion. She is also on the board of directors for the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and a member of the EPRI Governance and Nominating Committee.
The Dairyland board is interviewing finalists for search consultants. A search for Nick’s successor as Dairyland’s president and CEO will begin shortly.
Cardinal–Hickory Creek advances amid challenges
Some municipalities and environmental groups including Dane County, Iowa County, the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, and the Driftless Area Land Conservancy filed legal challenges to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission’s (PSC) unanimous approval of the CardinalÐHickory Creek Project.
The PSC approved the plan to build the 102-mile, 345-kilovolt line that will extend from Dubuque, Iowa, to Middleton in September. The $492 million project will offer economic savings, improve reliability, and relieve congestion on the grid while supporting efforts to increase use of renewable energy sources. Dane County’s suit alleges PSC abused its discretion.
Iowa regulators and federal agencies still must sign off on the plan, which is expected to be complete in 2023, pending legal challenges.
Foundation to award $2,000 scholarship
The Federated Youth Foundation, Inc. is now accepting applications for the fourth Charles Van Sickle Scholarship.
The $2,000 scholarship will be awarded to a pre-law or law student who has an interest in cooperative law. The scholarship is made possible by an endowment established in 2013 to honor Wisconsin’s renowned electric cooperative lobbyist and attorney, the late Charles Van Sickle. The scholarship will be awarded during the spring 2020 semester.
Applicants will be judged on leadership, scholastic achievement, extracurricular activities, personal motivation, and academic and life goals.
To be considered, applicants should submit application to the Federated Youth Foundation office no later than March 2, 2020. More information is available at www.weca.coop.