OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Governor is leading a strong push to work out an economic recruitment package to lure billions in electric car dollars to our state. Today, legislation to make that happen took a step forward.
Debate lasted over an hour and half today on the Oklahoma House of Representatives floor. Supporters of bringing a huge car battery plant to Oklahoma say it’s time to diversify the state’s oil and gas-based economy. Opponents are worried about the massive price tag coming out of the pockets of taxpayers.
“We are talking about the 2nd largest manufacturing plant in North America. We are talking about 4,000 jobs and putting Oklahoma on the map when it comes to tech companies,” said Rep. Jon Echols, House Majority Leader.
On Monday, Governor Kevin Stitt wouldn’t say company names on the record, but asked the state legislature for increased financial incentives to bring in businesses like Panasonic and Canoo.
“We are going to go after that new technology,” said Gov. Stitt.
The new bill, not even a day old, isn’t exactly what the Governor outlined to the press on Monday.
“It gives the same incentive that they were looking for, but it structures it in such a way that it protects the state,” said Rep. Kyle Hilbert.
HB 4455 or “The Lead Act” would allow for a company that spends over $3.6 billion in Oklahoma and meets certain hiring numbers to get tax rebates that could be $698 million, paid over a 5 year run.
Those hundreds of millions would come out of taxpayer dollars left over in this year’s general fund.
“This administration doesn’t have a particularly strong track record on negotiating on behalf of Oklahoma,” said Rep. Andy Fugate of Del City.
Opposition coming from expected and unexpected sources.
“Do we really want to bring people to this state that must be bribed to come here?” said Rep. Wendi Stearman.
“It’s immoral to give tax dollars away to a corporation that doesn’t need it or a business model that doesn’t deserve it,” said Rep. Tom Gann.
Opponents, specifically from the proposed factory district, citing issues of existing worker shortages in the state.
Others are worried recent development has only been fostered in the northeastern part of Oklahoma.
“Prosperity begets more prosperity, because a rising tide lifts all boats,” said Rep. Trey Caldwell.
“Consider how this is going to impact seven generations down the line,” said Rep. Ken Luttrell.
Supporters, from both sides of the aisle as well, pointing out the State’s successes in giving economic incentive to Goodyear in the 70s, the Thunder in the 2000s and the film industry in recent years.
“The time to make the investment is now,” said Rep. Meloyde Blacett.
The bill passed through the Oklahoma State House floor 81-17 less than 24 hours after it was pushed to lawmakers.
It’s reportedly less than half the deal Kansas has on the table, but its author says with support from the Cherokee Nation, Tulsa and Tulsa County…
“When you talk about the all-in piece, this makes us really competitive with Kansas,” said Hilbert.
Hilbert says the funding bill has not been ironed out yet, but says even with the $700 million set aside to wait for the companies to hit their marks, the State would have over $2.7 billion still in reserve accounts. That’s an all-time record.
This bill will now go to the State Senate floor and be heard on Thursday.