| May 25, 2016
Wind Subsidies Stay in Budget, Dept. of Commerce Gives Lobbyists Custom Socks
As the final days of Oklahoma’s 2016 legislative session wind down to final hours, more than $200 million in annual subsidies for wind power corporations remains in the budget. In celebration of maintaining taxpayer subsidies, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce gave gifts of custom socks to wind power lobbyists.
In what some could describe as prematurely “spiking the football” to reward wind power lobbyists for keeping all subsidies paid by the state to the wind power industry, socks with wind turbine silhouettes were distributed to wind power activists May 24.
Jeff Riles, a Washington D.C. lobbyist for Italian alternative energy giant, Enel Green Power and Midwest City native, received one such pair and took to social media to brag about it.
In a column dated May 20, 2016, in the Journal Record, State Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger advocated for ending the subsidies to wind power corporations. He wrote that wind subsidies are one of the biggest financial liabilities facing Oklahoma’s taxpayers today.
“Projections show wind subsidies will soar by hundreds of millions more in the next few years,” he wrote. “It’s a costly liability at a time we cannot afford it.
“At some point, state legislators and policymakers have to ask, ‘Have wind subsidies worked?’ The case has been made that wind subsidies have worked tremendously well. We have more wind turbines than all but three states and our production is growing at a tremendous rate. The subsidies worked like a charm and now it’s time for them to go.”
He went on to make the point that not only is the wind industry is entrenched in Oklahoma and will remain in the state, the wind power industry would thrive in Oklahoma without government giveaways to mostly out-of-state and foreign companies.
“Perhaps the most imperative question state legislators and policymakers should be asking is this, ‘What is more important? Subsidizing out-of-state and foreign wind companies or keeping Oklahoma schools and hospitals open?’” Doerflinger asked in his column.
One such issue facing the state is the question of public school teacher pay. According to most estimates, a $5,000 pay raise for all teachers in the state’s public education system would cost the state $245 million.
In a survey conducted by SoonerPoll in February, 64 percent of likely voters in Oklahoma opposed continuation of wind power subsidies. In March, another poll indicated that 54 percent wanted to cut subsidies for alternative energy production and other corporate credits and subsidies in order to pay for a teacher pay raise. Only 21 percent wanted to raise teacher pay by raising sales taxes.
Still on the table is a proposal by 24 Oklahoma lawmakers to cut non-essential spending – such as government giveaways to multinational energy corporations – and divert the funds already budgeted to pay for a $5,000 raise to all public school teachers in Oklahoma.