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!