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Mosier: Teachers or wind turbines?

Oklahoma has announced another 4-percent budget cut on top of the 3-percent cut from January. School districts are being asked to cut these funds from the remaining 25 percent of the school year budget. These funds that are already committed. As a longtime member of the board of education for Claremore Public Schools, I can tell you that we are facing total cuts of $1.3 million.

Schools are considering drastic measures including four-day school weeks, eliminating fine arts, reducing bus transportation and increasing class sizes. Meanwhile, industrial wind energy tax credits continue to carve a gaping hole in the state budget. This industry is flourishing courtesy of Oklahoma taxpayers, and core government functions are withering away.

Unless the Legislature acts this year, future payouts are enormous and far exceed any lease or ad valorem payments made by the wind industry:

• $56 million in state checks were written to wind companies last year as refunds for unused tax credits.

• $235 million in ad valorem tax exemptions will be spent before the credit sunsets in 2021.

• $800 million is potentially obligated for zero-emission tax credits for wind facilities already in place or under construction.

• $950 million in additional tax credits will be paid if currently planned wind facilities are built before the credit expires in 2021.

• $1.7 billion in tax credits will be spent if the proposed Plains and Eastern Clean Line comes to fruition by 2021.

These numbers don’t reflect millions in unfunded liabilities for tax credits waiting to be claimed by industrial wind. The industry doesn’t pay income, sales or production taxes for the use of Oklahoma’s wind resources. In fact, www.OK.Data.Gov reports that by fiscal year-end 2015, Oklahoma income tax collections were reduced by $119.7 million due to wind tax credits claimed by individuals, trusts and Fortune 500 companies.

This multibillion-dollar and largely foreign-owned industry thrives at our expense. We choose to pay out more annually for one wind turbine than the cost of hiring a starting teacher. We’re well on our way to becoming a forest of subsidized wind turbines while our failure to properly fund education destroys our ability to compete in a global economy.

Call your legislators today and tell them to stop wind subsidies now. The future of Oklahoma depends on you!

Richard D. Mosier is a member of the board of education for Claremore Public Schools.