Big Wind is making some bold claims as it seeks to avoid paying a proposed tax on wind energy in Oklahoma.
The industry has balked at a tax on wind generation in Step Up Oklahoma’s plan to help shore up Oklahoma’s budget, complaining new wind projects already are taxed at a much greater rate than new oil and natural gas wells.
The Oklahoma Tax Commission, which was asked to investigate trade group OK WindPower’s claims to lawmakers, was unable to verify that assertion, but Executive Director Tony Mastin confirmed the wind industry will continue receiving payments on an expired subsidy for another decade.
“Based on current law, the tax commission expects to pay refunds from zero-emission tax credit claims until FY28,” Mastin wrote in a Feb. 7 letter to Treasurer Ken Miller.
Mastin also refuted Big Wind’s claim that Oklahoma is “retaining an additional $50 million in revenue” since the zero-emission tax credit for wind was eliminated last year. He said the tax commission already has paid more than $70 million in refundable credits in fiscal years 2017 and 2018, with more payouts to come.
Big Wind also likes to brag about the amount of money it has paid in property taxes to local schools in Oklahoma, but tax commission records show Oklahoma taxpayers actually covered about 80 percent of the industry’s $74 million tax bill in 2017.
Wind projects had been exempt from paying property taxes for their first five years of operation, so state taxpayers picked up the tab. Now that the incentive has expired, OK WindPower has proposed replacing its property tax burden with a production tax on wind, while complaining it was left out of the discussions that resulted in the Step Up Oklahoma plan.
That plan, which would provide for a $5,000 pay raise for state teachers, has garnered endorsements from a growing number of business and education groups, as well as about 69 percent of likely voters, according to polling released last week.
Step Up Oklahoma’s proposed wind tax would generate $15 million to $23 million in new revenue for the state.
Is that too much to ask for Oklahoma’s future?
Cliff Branan is executive director of the Windfall Coalition, whose aim is to end all wind subsidies in Oklahoma.
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