Tax Credit for Wind Energy Industry Restored by Oklahoma Lawmakers
Carter, M Scott, THE JOURNAL RECORD
Last Friday, in the final minutes of the legislative session, state lawmakers restored a previously eliminated tax credit for the wind energy industry after industry lobbyists mounted a full-scale assault.
The credit, bundled in House Bill 3024, passed the House on a 91- 8 vote at 4:34 p.m. Friday.
Then, at 4:51 p.m., just nine minutes before the Senate was forced to adjourn for the year, the bill passed the Senate 44-3.
Written by state Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Dacoma, and state Sen. Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, the legislation restored tax credit payments for the wind industry, historic property renovations and businesses that invest in infrastructure and add employees.
Originally part of the "revenue enhancement" component of the $6.68 billion budget bill, those tax credits had been eliminated by Senate Bill 1267, which gutted several credits, including a tax credit for zero-emission power plants such as wind farms.
The tax credit moratorium was set to generate about $25 million; of that figure, about $600,000 was used to fund the zero-emission facility tax credit. Industry officials touted the credit, passed several years ago, as responsible for bringing several large wind- energy projects to the state.
But as the session wound to a close, the enhancement package - along with the budget, itself - proved unpopular with many business and conservative groups.
In a media statement released as the budget deal was being voted on, the conservative group Oklahomans for Responsible Government complained the deal included gimmicks and didn't cut spending deep enough.
"The budget agreement reached between Governor Henry and legislative leaders relied far too much on so-called 'revenue enhancements' and not enough on budget cuts," said Brian Downs, OFRG's executive director. "While lawmakers talked about cuts as high as 10 percent, in the end the overall cut was less than 4 percent. As a result, closing the $1.2 billion budget gap used only $256 million in cuts, relying on gimmicks like a tax on health care claims and raiding the Rainy Day Fund to the point where only $100 million is left for 2012 and beyond."
But by late Friday, the revenue component of the budget had, again, undergone major changes, including the reinstatement of many previously eliminated tax credits.
Industry officials were behind the effort.
"The wind energy industry deeply appreciates the leadership shown by the Oklahoma Legislature and Gov. …