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Robson: State funds gone with the wind

Oklahoma legislators are facing a budget gap. However, the industrial wind energy industry stands to receive $193 million in annual tax subsidies.

This best-kept secret at the state Capitol is a shining example of tax credit abuse that jeopardizes funding for our most basic and vital services – education, public safety and health care.

Even though state revenue is soaring – thanks in large part to a revived oil industry that contributes nearly $1 billion annually in taxes – our legislators are writing blank checks that compromise our future.

Case in point: The Wind Energy Coalition reported that $442 million was spent in Oklahoma over the last decade. However, more than $1 billion in anticipated earmarks are committed to the industry over the next 10 years:

• $880 million in zero-emissions tax credits ($88 million for the next 10 years). The state pays .005 cents for every kilowatt-hour of electricity produced.

• $305 million in investment tax credits ($61 million for the next five years). Owners receive a 1-percent tax credit on their qualified depreciable property. This is based on their own assessment of $6.1 billion invested, of which only a fraction was actually spent here.

• $300 million in ad valorem tax exemptions for the next five years that would have supported local schools and municipalities. The Legislature made a special deal for the wind industry, releasing them from the jobs creation requirement that every other industry must meet.

Additionally, owners of industrial wind farms qualify for a cash payment of 85 percent of their tax credit. While many of these appear to have not been claimed yet, they’re offered in perpetuity – meaning the state must guarantee cash payment for accrued credits for years to come.

An industry that can’t produce a profit without our own government subsidies has the very real potential of bankrupting Oklahoma.

What began as a personal experience countering a proposed wind farm near my property has led to a mission to protect our state from an exploitative and conscienceless industry. This problem is much bigger than I imagined.

Our efforts this year to introduce legislation to regulate the wind industry were derailed by vigorous opposition from the industry.

While we may have lost this battle, we haven’t lost the war.

Frank Robson is owner of Robson Properties and founder of the Oklahoma Property Rights Association, a statewide coalition of concerned citizens.