Wind Push Is For Taxpayers
By Barry Porterfield firstname.lastname@example.org
Ads of all kinds, like a few newspaper and TV spots, and now it’s a visit to Pauls Valley by a push to end tax exemptions for the wind industry in Oklahoma.
Former state legislator Cliff Branan is now executive director of a group called the Windfall Coalition.
Branan tells the PV Democrat it’s a diverse group of 15 to 20 organizations, such as tribes, oil and gas companies and banks, that make up the coalition.
Their single goal — get the law changed so wind companies and the wind turbines built in Oklahoma can start paying sales taxes.
Calling himself a “one-man shop” while representing the coalition, Branan says it’s not easy trying to persuade people to get on board with this campaign since there are dozens of lobbyists working to keep these tax exemptions in place for wind farms.
“We’re a taxpayer advocacy group,” Branan said.
“We’re not against anything. We’re just for Oklahoma taxpayers.
“These wind farms are given a special tax sweetheart deal. They’re here to mine for our tax credits and financially are taking advantage of us.
“They’re the one industry that pays no tax, and that patently is not fair. Everybody else pays sales taxes. Why not these guys?”
Branan says it was back in 2001 when Oklahoma lawmakers began a push to get at least 15 percent of power to be renewable in Oklahoma.
The push all those years ago resulted in tax incentives to bring these wind energy companies, which Branan stresses were never capped.
Now there are around 3,400 wind turbines in Oklahoma with 750 more under construction and thousands of others expected to be coming in the future.
Permits filed with the Federal Aviation Administration show Garvin County is expected to someday be home to 28 new turbines, according to Branan.
He stresses without the exemptions those turbines would generate thousands of dollars in sales tax revenue for both this county and the state.
The numbers offered by Branan shows the average turbine costs about $2 million to construct.
He says there’s about $15,000 in sales tax revenue for Garvin County and $90,000 for the state of Oklahoma from each one.
That means the 28 new turbines planned for this county would generate about $420,000 in tax revenue.
All of that adds up to what Branan says is about $900 million in tax revenue being lost to the state because of these tax exemptions for the wind industry.
If the exemptions were to end the collection of taxes would begin immediately, which Branan says would help offset the coming year’s budget shortfall by raising about $67 million in revenue from the new wind turbines.
“This is the lost revenue to Oklahoma,” he said. “These turbines don’t pay a penny in sales taxes.
“This is new money to balance the budget. The goal is to dedicate new revenue toward core government services, better roads, schools.
“These are excessive tax giveaways. The easiest thing to do is a removal of the sales tax exemption.”
Among the lawmakers pushing for the boost to the wind industry all those years ago was then governor Frank Keating.
Keating can today be seen on a television spot with a message that these tax exemptions have gone too far and should come to an end.
More numbers offered by Branan shows Oklahoma, ranked number three out of the top 10 wind producing states in the country, is the only one offering tax subsidies.
A couple more are 95 percent of the turbines are owned by companies outside Oklahoma and the U.S., while 60 percent of the power generated go outside of Oklahoma.
One part of the “baby steps” for this movement came when the legislation was recently approved that “closed the door” on the zero emission tax credits.
The coalition is also pushing to end an investment tax credit, ad valorem tax exemption and manufacturers sales tax exemption for the wind energy companies.
“A second thing we would love to see is that all forms of energy are taxed under the same terms and conditions,” Branan said.