Wind industry invited to join efforts to resolve budget impasse
Representatives of Step Up Oklahoma sent out an email Monday inviting chief executive officers of wind development companies to join their coalition's efforts to resolve the state's budget impasse.
"Members of your organization are invited to meet with leaders of Step Up Oklahoma to discuss our entire proposal and present solutions on how to structure revenues from wind energy," Step Up Oklahoma representatives said in an email to Jeffrey Clark, executive director of The Wind Coalition.
"We're happy to be included," Clark responded Monday. "We certainly think that the group ... has been told a story and a narrative about wind energy in Oklahoma that's not accurate and we certainly hope to dispel the information they've been given and to work with them to find a revenue plan going forward that addresses the state's challenges and is supportive of all industries and job creators in Oklahoma."
Step Up Oklahoma is a coalition of Oklahoma civic and business leaders that announced last week it had come up with a package of proposals to resolve the state's budget impasse, reform state government and provide $5,000 pay raises for Oklahoma teachers and principals.
The proposal calls for raising nearly $800 million in new revenues through a variety of measures.
Those measures include:
• Increasing the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack.
• Increasing the motor fuel tax on gasoline and diesel by 6 cents per gallon.
• Altering personal income tax laws.
• Increasing the initial gross production tax from 2 percent to 4 percent on all new wells and all existing wells currently taxed at the 2 percent level.
• Enacting a wind generation tax.
About $133.5 million of the proposed new revenue would come from increases in the gross production tax, while $15 million would come from the wind industry.
Step Up Oklahoma members said one of their goals was to spread around the tax burden and they didn't think it was unreasonable to ask the wind industry to be responsible for $15 million in new revenue if the oil industry was being asked to come up with $133.5 million. Representatives pointed out in their letter that $15 million was only about "2 percent" of the new revenue being sought from various taxpayers.
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Several oil and gas company executives were part of the Step Up Oklahoma coalition that developed the proposals that were refined through negotiations with the governor's office and state legislative leaders.
Wind industry officials have complained about being left out.
Monday's email from Step Up Oklahoma members makes it clear that was never the organization's intent.
"Please know CEOs from the wind development companies with operations in our state are welcome to participate," it states. "Some wind developer executives from companies in The Wind Coalition have already spoken to leaders of the Step Up Oklahoma group. Others have been invited through intermediaries and elected officials."
The email apparently was an attempt to smooth any hard feelings.
Clark sounded less than enthusiastic about supporting a wind generation tax.
"It is concerning that this group would target an Oklahoma power generation source for new taxation that would be above and beyond the taxation that they apply to another facility making the exact same product," Clark said. "For example, a coal power plant using coal imported from Wyoming or gas from North Dakota would not bear the new taxes they've suggested. I think that's very concerning."