State Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) said Friday the 2015 legislative session was marked by progress in the area of tax credit reform.
"The abuse of tax credits in Oklahoma is breaking our budget," Bennett said. "We really are not getting a return on our investment in these areas. The fiscally responsible thing to do is to cut them and ensure we set up a committee to evaluate all tax credits to ensure the citizens of Oklahoma are getting a return on our investment. The 2015 session led to some important reforms, but we still have much work to do."
This year's House Bill 2182, which has been signed into law, establishes an independent committee to evaluate tax credits and their return on investment. The new law also establishes deadlines for the tax credit evaluations. Bennett co-authored the legislation.
"We have out-of-control abuse on tax credits in the state of Oklahoma," Bennett said. "This bill will set up an independent committee to evaluate our return on investment and the state legislature will be able to cancel the tax credits that are not working and keep the credits that are benefiting the state. As your legislators, we are responsible for being good stewards of your tax payer dollar and that is what we will do."
Two additional bills will limit the use of tax credits by the wind industry. Senate Bill 502, now signed into law, prohibits companies engaged in wind power production from claiming a tax credit for new jobs and investment. Senate Bill 498 ends property tax exemptions for wind power developers that have assets placed in commercial operation. Bennett co-authored both bills.
"Currently the five-year property tax exemption allows wind developers to avoid paying property taxes for the first five years that a wind farm is in operation and accounts for over half of the total exemptions claimed by all eligible manufacturers in Oklahoma," Bennett said. "I personally went after and researched this issue because of Clean Line Energy. My constituents overwhelmingly oppose this line from coming through their land so I went after the root of the problem. Basically with all the tax credits we taxpayers were funding Clean Lines' project. Taking away an incentive to receive tax credits will likely scare away any investors."
Bennett said, "Clean Line Energy is currently trying to steal residents' property via eminent domain to construct a direct current line that goes across Oklahoma."
"Oklahomans get no public use from this line and it only hurts the constituents in Sequoyah County," Bennett said. "The citizens asked me to help stop Clean Line so I went after the tax credits in the wind energy used to construct the towers that will provide the power to this line. Hopefully it will prevent any entities from investing in a line that goes across our county."
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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