One of the latest bills in the legislature to target Oklahoma’s wind industry was unveiled Monday by two Senators who maintained they were not “anti-wind industry,” but that Oklahoma is on the hook for up to $750 million in tax credits in the next ten years.
“It’s not right that we are raising everyone else’s taxes while we are subsidizing their business,”the two argued.
Senators Josh Brecheen and Dahm claimed their amendment to SB888 was not a new tax but an effort to eliminate the refundability of tax credits for the wind farms.
However, their proposal would not start saving money until 2021 and the amount would total $70 million.
“We are not anti-wind. We are not anti-alternative energy,” claimed Sen. Dahm, a Republican from Broken Arrow. “We are doing this because we believe that there are better ways to fund our core functions of government instead of continually raising taxes.”
Sen. Brecheen, a Republican from Coalgate maintained the bill would eliminate wind farms from avoiding the payment of property taxes. Brecheen claimed that taxpayers in 13 of the state’s counties paid 100% of the property taxes on wind farm operations located there.
“Overall, 80% of the property taxes were paid by you, the taxpayers, you Oklahomans,” he said during an afternoon news conference at the capitol.
Sen. Dahm defended the move.
“The out-of-state companies are still welcome to do business here in the state of Oklahoma but we need to realize that the state legislature in the past few weeks and months has raised taxes on oil and gas, on everyone at the gas pump and on those who consume tobacco.”
The plan by the two Senators brought an immediate response from Mark Yates, Oklahoma director of the Wind Coalition who said it was another case of reneging on an agreement reached years ago.
“Here is what the public truly needs to understand. Oklahoma lured investors and developers to come to Oklahoma with incentives. We worked side-by-side the last three legislative sessions to end incentives five years early, but now they want to break every single promise made to wind investors.”
He repeated his contention that capping the wind tax credits “will result in lawsuits, bankrupt projects, ranchers missing land payments and school bonds losing their ratings. It is obvious these legislators have a private agenda being driven by the one industry and two billionaires that want to run wind out of this state.”
Sen. Brecheen brushed aside threats of possible legal action.
“There is tremendous legal footing if anyone tries to challenge it. we are not eliminating the tax credit—we’re ending refundability. They still get their tax credit. They still get 100% of the tax credit. They will no longer be cut a check.”
The amended SB888 was approved on a 14-12 vote Monday afternoon in the Oklahoma Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget.