Month: April 2018

Frank Keating: SB 888 a step in the right direction

As published in The Oklahoman, April 29, 2018
When I was governor in 2001, the wind industry made many promises. It promised us jobs but very few have been produced. It promised to manufacture here, but manufacturing is done out of state. It promised money for schools, but education as a whole is suffering and the industry refuses to help.

The wind industry’s claim that we have a moral obligation to honor our promises to them is nonsense when you consider it hasn’t honored one of its original promises to Oklahoma. The tax credit was designed to give a jump-start to a wind industry in its infancy in Oklahoma. It was sold as a low-cost way to broaden our already robust energy and economic development program. What was promised to cost the state less than $2 million annually when I was in office, has soared to estimates of $930 million over the next 10 years.

Industrial wind has been presented many opportunities to help find solutions to fix Oklahoma’s budget gap. When asked to participate in the Step Up plan and HB 1010XX to support education, these multibillion-dollar companies based outside of Oklahoma threatened to sue and file bankruptcy.

Private equity firms, international companies and Wall Street banks fund these wind farm operations and they have no vested interest in the future of Oklahoma, other than to harvest our natural resources and tax incentives. It’s time to stop taking money away from education, roads and services Oklahomans need, to write checks to this wealthy industry. For example, did you know that wind subsidies for one turbine exceed the starting salary of an Oklahoma teacher, even with the pay raise?

Senate Bill 888 will be heard in the Oklahoma Senate this week. The measure ends cash payments to wind companies for the energy they produce. This means Oklahoma taxpayers will stop paying them for energy they already sell on the free market. They still get to stockpile the credits for up to 20 years from the date they are earned and operate virtually tax free in Oklahoma. Other subsidy programs, including ad valorem and sales tax exemptions, remain in place, and the industry is still not required to pay a wind production tax. In fact, Oklahoma Tax Commission records show that taxpayers actually paid 80 percent of wind’s ad valorem taxes in 2017. The industry is deferred from paying those taxes for the first five years. Because of a tax loophole, Oklahoma is required to reimburse school districts and counties for that lost revenue. This year, lawmakers are struggling to find an additional $94 million to pay for those ad valorem exemptions granted prior to July 2017.

Oklahoma’s wind policy has warped into a scam costing taxpayers millions to the detriment of other publicly funded services. I’m dismayed that taxpayer money has been spent so recklessly and it is our duty as citizens and policymakers to end corporate welfare for wind. SB 888 is a step in the right direction.

Keating, a Republican, served as governor of Oklahoma from 1995-2003.

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Please contact your local senator now to let them know you support this common-sense approach to curb taxpayer-funded wind payouts.

Let Your Senator Know You Support Senate Bill 888 to Curb Corporate Handouts to Wind

WindWaste applauds members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives who voted in favor of Senate Bill 888, which begins reformation of the egregious wind corporate-giveaway program by eliminating refundability of the Zero Emissions Tax Credit. It saves Oklahoma taxpayers a significant portion of the estimated $930 million in corporate handouts over the next 10 years.

Despite reports it ends the tax incentive, it’s important to remember that SB 888 allows Wind companies to stockpile the credits for up to 20 years from the date they are earned and continue using them to eliminate or reduce their income tax obligation to the State of Oklahoma. The bill only eliminates taxpayer-funded cash payments for Zero Emission Tax Credits. Other subsidy programs for Big Wind, including ad valorem and sales tax exemptions, remain in place, and the industry is still not required to pay a wind production tax.

The measure will now go to the Senate. Please contact your local senator now to let them know you support this common-sense approach to curb taxpayer-funded wind payouts.

Eliminating subsidy programs for this highly profitable industry just makes sense!

Wind Continues its Dishonesty about Supporting Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s Wind Industry is on the attack again, claiming unfair treatment by legislative leaders and continuing to tell outright lies.

These four simple facts remain true:

1. You paid 80% of Wind’s Ad Valorem Taxes

Their claim to pay a higher tax rate stems from a mistruth that they pay ad valorem (property) taxes. Oklahoma Tax Commission records show that taxpayers actually paid 80% of their taxes in 2017.  The industry is deferred from paying those taxes for the first five years. Because of a tax loophole, Oklahoma is required to reimburse school districts and counties for that lost revenue.

2. Zero Emissions Subsidy Program Will Cost Oklahoma Nearly $1 billion

Qualification for the Zero Emissions Tax Credit for new wind projects has ended, but we still have to pay $930 million in existing subsidies for 10 years.

3. Wind doesn’t pay any sales tax, something that could generate an additional $20 million annually in funding.

4. Many projects actually receive a refund from the state and enjoy a negative tax rate.

The Mammoth Plains Project in Dewey County enjoys an effective tax rate of minus 14 percent. Taxpayers funded $1.85 million of their $1.87 million ad valorem tax bill, meaning the wind farm only paid $19,000 in property taxes.  They also qualified for a cash payment from Oklahoma taxpayers of $3.54 million in Zero Emissions subsidies.

It’s time for Big Wind to contribute their fair share. YES on SB 888!

It’s past time for Industrial Wind to pay its fair share of Oklahoma’s education costs

Giving teachers in Oklahoma a raise is past due. WindWaste was established on the premise that more funding for education was critical, and the industry that has profited most in recent years from Oklahoma subsidies should contribute.

House Bill 1010XX passed. Oklahoma companies are paying more taxes to fund it. You and I are paying more taxes to fund it. Industrial Wind will contribute nothing.

In fact, these multibillion-dollar companies based outside of Oklahoma threatened to sue and file bankruptcy if required to participate in funding HB 1010XX. They printed and distributed expensive fliers at the Capitol claiming “Oklahoma is closed for business,” followed by one that touted a number of statistics about its success. Is the industry thriving or on the brink of bankruptcy?

It’s important to remember that the wind industry claims to be one of the biggest funding sources for education through payment of property taxes. In reality, it is deferred from paying those taxes for the first five years. Because of a tax loophole, Oklahoma is required to reimburse school districts and counties for that lost revenue. In 2017, you paid for 80 percent of the taxes it is bragging about on TV.

Making matters worse, many legislators continue to protect Big Wind. These lawmakers are primarily located in western Oklahoma because their communities profit disproportionately.

For example, representatives of Dewey County recently expressed support for the wind industry for contributions to their county and school district. A closer look reveals that Dewey County billed $6.4 million for property taxes on wind power installations in 2017, but that $5.1 million of that was not paid by Industrial Wind at all. Instead, it was billed directly to the Oklahoma Tax Commission for payment by Oklahoma taxpayers through the ad valorem reimbursement fund.

Additionally, wind farms in the county qualified for $10.8 million in Zero Emissions Tax Credits, which are refundable from Oklahoma taxpayers. Some $16 million will be paid to Industrial Wind and Dewey County from Oklahoma tax revenues and not by the multibillion-dollar companies that own the facilities and reap the benefit of electrical production from them. That rate of payment continues through 2020.

A simple cap on these subsidies, like the one now before the Legislature, could easily make up the $50 million lost because of the 11th-hour removal of the hotel/motel taxes from the plan.

Since the state is broke and education continues to suffer, Big Wind has offered to help by way of a high-interest loan that make it even more money. It is floating a proposal to lawmakers that would allow the state to defer its subsidies for a few years. The only catch is that taxpayers have to pay it back, with interest. So now, it proposes, we could potentially pay out $930 million in Zero Emissions Tax Credits with interest over the next 10 years.

We must stop funding a multibillion-dollar corporate welfare program that directly profits wind companies, and instead focus on the additional funding needed for education. Lawmakers must stop ignoring these excessive corporate handouts and cast their votes in the best interest of all Oklahomans.

Make Industrial Wind participate in the compromises necessary to fund Oklahoma education properly!