Tulsa World – Sen. Michael Bergstrom and Estela Hernandez: End wind subsidies for teacher pay

Voters rejected State Question 779 on Nov. 8, but Oklahoma’s classroom teachers still need a raise.

Surveys consistently show the public supports increasing teacher pay, even if they opposed SQ 779’s package of tax hikes and increased spending for other programs. Thankfully, there’s a better way to finance a teacher pay raise: end wasteful tax credit subsidies for the wind Industry.

According to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, $113 million in zero-emission tax credits were claimed — largely by wind companies — during Fiscal Year 2014. That $113 million could provide an additional $2,600 to the more than 42,000 classroom teachers in Oklahoma.

By ending tax credits for wind companies — 93 percent of which are located out of state or overseas in countries like Spain, Portugal and South Korea — the state would get more than half way to funding a $5,000 teacher pay raise. And this is if the cost of these subsidies were to stay at $113 million per year.

Current law provides no limit on these subsidies. The payout to wind companies can keep rising, and that is what is happening today.

This past summer, Oklahoma Tax Commission staff testified at a legislative interim study that the zero-emission tax credits in 2017 are expected to cost the state much more than the $113 million paid out for 2014. Some estimate the state will pay more than $200 million to wind companies for 2017.

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