AUSTIN – Legislation to limit tax incentives to build wind power plants near Texas military aviation facilities cleared the Texas House on Monday, despite determined opposition from conservative property-rights advocates and many Democrats in the state’s urban centers.
“The goal of this bill is simple: It’s to protect aviation military installations from encroachment,” said state Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, the House sponsor of Senate Bill 277.
Frank touted the legislation, passed 76-65, as a means to safeguard facilities such as Sheppard Air Force Base near Wichita Falls, Dyess AFB near Abilene and the Corpus Christi and Kingsville Naval Air Stations from being included in the next round of base closings and realignments. San Angelo also has Goodfellow Air Force Base nearby.
It would prevent local governments from offering tax breaks and other incentives for projects within 25 miles of affected installations.
But state Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, called the bill an attack on the ability of landowners to maximize the value of their properties and a stiff-arm to firms that want to bring economic vitality to Texas.
“These companies can deploy their assets anywhere in the United States, but they want to come here,” Murphy said. “When you diminish people’s (property) value and limit their ability to make money, it’s a taking.”
Frank pushed back. “You have a property right to make money with a government handout?” he said.
Joining Frank in support of the measure was state Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, who countered assertions that groups like the oil and gas lobby and the Texas Association of Business were working against the bill that has already won Senate approval.
El Paso Democrat Cesar Blanco, who has both wind farms and a major military facilities in his region of the state, called the legislation “a good balance.”
The bill would not affect already-built wind facilities and was amended to allow projects that are pending when the measure would take effect to go forward.
A final procedural vote is expected Tuesday. Because of the House change, the legislation must go back to the Senate, which can either accept it or ask the House to strip it out.