Oklahoma has offered a host of generous subsidies to make the Sooner State one of the leading wind energy producers in the nation, but our state cannot afford to keep subsidizing Big Wind.
My fellow lawmakers and I eliminated one of the most expensive subsidies earlier this year to help shore up a nearly $900 million budget shortfall, but we still had to dip into Oklahoma’s emergency fund to pay off wind developers’ property tax bill.
Oklahoma phased out an ad valorem reimbursement program for new wind farms at the end of 2016, but the state is still on the hook for up to five years’ worth of property tax bills for wind developers.
This year, that meant dedicating more than $60 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to cover those reimbursements in fiscal year 2018.
Such payouts cannot continue. Big Wind companies have come to Oklahoma to produce electricity from our wind, but are contributing little in return.
Oklahoma paid nearly $143 million in subsidies to wind companies in 2015, between property tax reimbursements and the zero-emission tax credit, according to a study released this week.
The study shows wind companies paid only $8.3 million in ad valorem tax to local school districts and $22 million in lease payments to landowners.
None of that helps our state overcome its budget issues.
It is time for Big Wind to pay its taxes, just like the rest of us.
Wind companies consistently have claimed they need subsidies to develop our state’s wind resources, but the study shows the 11 companies active in Oklahoma have a stock market value of $623 billion. That is almost nine times the market valuation of Oklahoma oil and natural gas companies, which have formed the backbone of our state’s economy for generations.
Oil companies paid $2.5 billion in taxes in 2015, compared to $8.3 million paid by the wind industry.
That has to change, so I will introduce legislation to end the wind industry’s ability to qualify for the manufacturers’ sales tax exemption and charge a gross production tax on wind energy, similar to that paid by oil companies.
Wind companies logged net income of $34 billion last year, according to the study, so they can afford to pay their way in Oklahoma.
State Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, is vice chairman of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee.