Oklahoma senators eye wind tax credit reform amid school funding walkout

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OKLAHOMA CITY - As Oklahoma teachers seize the capitol for the second week in a statewide walkout, some lawmakers are turning their attention to wind tax credits.

In a press conference held Monday afternoon, Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate and Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow pushed for wind tax credit reform. They claimed the state was on the hook for between $500 and $750 million in payments to the wind industry for the next 10 years.

"One simple answer is ending corporate welfare payments to the corporate wind industry. If we don’t do something truly meaningful this session, not session, another $70 million is literally going to be gone with the wind," said Brecheen. "93 percent of that $500 to $750 million that Oklahoma is going to pay out goes to out of state and foreign interests. Checks in the mail to Italy. Checks in the mail to Spain."

By eliminating tax credit payouts, Dahm said $70 million could instead be spent on the state's core services and functions. The measure passed a House appropriations and budget committee 14-12.

"This doesn’t eliminate their tax credit. It just says the state of Oklahoma is no longer going to pay you to do business here in the state," Dahm told reporters Monday.

However, members of the Senate leadership said they're not convinced proposals like this have a chance of passing and ultimately signed into law.

"There’s a lot of people who want to do a hard cap that’s impossibility of actually passing," said Senate majority floor leader Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City. "Soft cap is doable, and GPT is doable but the GPT would have to originate in the House."

Senate minority floor leader John Sparks, D-Norman said he questions how much money it could actually bring in for schools.

"If a delay is put on the money when it is moved to the ad valorem accounts to the counties from the states, that is not going to happen all at once," Sparks told News 4. "It’s going to be a delayed approach at best."

Sparks said there's also a question of legality.

"One of the legal issues for taxing electrical production by wind is that we do not tax electrical production by coal, or natural gas, or hydroelectric or solar," he said. "If we only tax one tax of electrical generation, that’s a special law and the Oklahoma Constitution specifically prevents and prohibits special laws."

With Monday's passage in committee, it is now eligible to be heard on the House floor.

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