Wind turbines or teachers for our kids? Oklahoma taxpayers need to decide.
Funding education for Oklahoma schools is the top issue today. Meanwhile, the wind industry continues to survive off our taxpayer money.
In fact, many of these wind companies are based outside the state and are using our tax dollars to send wind energy elsewhere, and some are even based in other countries such as Italy. My question is, why are we sending our tax dollars to corporations in other states and countries to fund their for-profit projects when we ought to be more worried about our kids’ educational needs right here?
For example, according to the group Wind Waste, Oklahoma pays an average of $32,000 to a first-year teacher, but hands over $38,000 per wind turbine to multibillion-dollar industrial wind corporations that can’t seem to make a profit or provide permanent jobs here in Oklahoma.
University of Oklahoma President David Boren wants to help fund public schools and universities with a proposed 1-cent state sales tax increase. Boren doesn’t want education destroyed, and my hat is off to him. But to burden the taxpayers of Oklahoma with about a 20 percent sales tax hike (4.5 to 5.5 cents, Oct. 4, Tulsa World) when those same taxpayers continue to fund corporate wind industry welfare and when taxes already in effect could be used for education just doesn’t set right with me.
We ought to stop all corporate welfare to the wind industry. It has taken money away from education.
Plus, with the economy in a severe downturn, a sales tax increase isn’t ideal. We’re trying to attract new companies (ideally those that don’t need handouts) into our state.
The wind industry blows a lot of smoke about issues we’re all concerned about. Jobs: Where are they? Lower electric bills: Where are they? Help for schools: With a five-year tax exemption that will continue for a few more years, where are they?
In fact, for years the state has paid back schools for the wind tax exemption out of the Ad Valorem Reimbursement Fund. Not only that, the first 1 percent of Oklahoma taxpayer income tax collections goes into that fund, which, according to a recent NewsOK article, has operated in the red since 2003, forcing lawmakers to approve millions in supplemental appropriations most years, including this year.
According to estimates from the Oklahoma Tax Commission, tax exemptions and tax credits for wind energy cost the state nearly $49 million last year. State officials have said they expect the state to face a budget hole of at least $611 million next year.
Boren’s recent comment, “Our choice is to either do this or do nothing.” But that’s just not the case. We don’t need to raise the sales tax and further burden the citizens of Oklahoma. Instead, why not cut off the corporate wind welfare handout completely and give it to education for our children?
Scott N. Lohah was raised in Hominy and attended Northeastern State University, Tahlequah. He is a retired Osage Nation Language Program teacher, an heirloom corn farmer and concerned citizen who studies the fiscal impact of wind subsidies.
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