Oklahoma hopes to take advantage of lack of NASA launch sites


NASA is running out of launch sites for its growing number of rockets into space. So the Oklahoma legislature wants to take advantage of the shortage by resurrecting a tax credit program to help develop the state Space Port at the former Burns Flat Air Force Base adjacent to Clinton.

House Bill 3426 is making its way closer to the governor’s desk after winning approval in the House and a State Senate Committee.

“This would allow the state to enter the market when you’re talking about being competitive about small to medium solid state rockets,” explained Rep. Nick Archer as the House prepared to vote earlier in March. The bill was approved on a 65-28 vote and sent to the Senate where the Aeronautics and Transportation Committee gave approval Tuesday on a 10-1 vote. The measure was referred to the Finance Committee in the Senate.

During the House debate, Rep. Archer referred to “Project Stellar” at the Oklahoma Commerce Department. What is Project Stellar? The Commerce Department isn’t talking.

“Due to Non-Disclosure Agreements, Commerce isn’t allowed to comment on projects however Oklahoma is globally recognized for its outstanding incentives programs and pro-business environment,  so anytime we can find a way to lessen the tax burden on companies looking to expand or relocate to Oklahoma is a win-win opportunity,” answered Becky Samples, Director of Marketing and Communications with the Commerce Department.

In the Senate, where the measure was approved in committee, Sen. John Haste of Broken Arrow helped author the bill. He explained HB3426 and its $30 million tax credit proposal is a replacement of an earlier attempt made many years ago but it was allowed to expire because of the lack of industry interest at the time.

“This is something that’s important for Oklahoa. Oklahoma is an opportunity. California, Texas and Florida have put similar types of things in place,” he told the Aeronautics and Transportation Committee.

“It will tie into things not only at Burns Flat, we know of one company that will utilitize the port for transporting pieces in, but also for manufacturing potential in the state.”

In January, Sen. Haste attended meetings in Florida with NASA, FAA and companies expressing a desire to expand the number of space rocket launch sites.

Under questioning, the Senator explained it is not a fund for companies but a tax credit.

“Investments have to made of companies and local entities before they get the credit.”