The Legislature’s most vocal opponent of wasteful tax credits said Friday that some legislators are again trying to pass last minute “stealth” tax credits and incentives during the final days of the 2013 session.
“Once again a bunch of very questionable tax credits are emerging from the cracks in the walls of our crumbling State Capitol,” said Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City. “There are stealth efforts underway to give away hundreds of millions of dollars at the end of a session when we told our state troopers and prison guards we had no money to pay them a decent salary.”
Dank said he has uncovered efforts to insert new or renewed tax credits into last-minute legislation. Among the proposals:
- The current wind-energy tax credit would be extended for an additional five years from its scheduled sunset date in 2016 until 2021.
- The current coal-tax credit would be extended for seven years, since it is now scheduled to sunset in 2014 and would also be extended until 2021.
- Both would be converted from transferable tax credits to “refundable” ones that would allow holders of those tax credits to simply cash them in at a 15-percent discount. They would be issued checks from the state treasury.
- A tax credit for the construction of “affordable” housing sought by a Missouri developer has been revived after it failed to win legislative approval early in the session.
- A sales tax exemption has been proposed for an upcoming Senior PGA tournament in Edmond.
“The wind-tax credit alone, along with all the other special breaks and credits that industry receives, could amount to an additional $200 million or more over the next several years by extending the sunset date” Dank said. “Worst of all, none of these tax credits will carry any restrictions or limitations. And I have been told that the transferable measure went to conference to insert language that exempts the recipients from taxation on their refunds. It’s a double free ride on the backs of the taxpayers. Maybe we should just give them unmarked hundred dollar bills and cut out the middleman.”
Dank said the House voted unanimously earlier in the session to support his bill that would set mandatory criteria for all tax credits, including auditing, pre-approval, sunsets, strict reporting, caps and a requirement that any tax credit creates actual jobs.
“We said that any new or renewed tax credit must meet those criteria, but no effort has been made to see if these do,” he said. “Did they mean it when they voted for those criteria a few weeks ago, or was that all just a scam to fool the taxpayers.”
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Dank said the wind tax credits, among the most costly issued by state government, benefit some companies that are selling the power they generate to other states.
“The Oklahoma taxpayers are being asked to subsidize electric customers in Tennessee and Alabama,” he said. “That is wasteful and preposterous. Even more preposterous are the claims that the discounts will save taxpayer dollars when any savings will be far out weighted by the sunset extensions of seven and five years.”
Dank said the golf-tournament tax exemption is especially troubling, since it benefits an event that is already scheduled.
“Now we are being asked to give a sales-tax exemption for an event for wealthy senior golfers from out of state when we cannot pass a sales tax exemption on hearing aids for senior Oklahomans,” he said.
Dank vowed to fight the tax credit measures on the floor and will urge Gov. Mary Fallin to veto any tax credit that is passed in the waning hours of the session or does not meet the criteria endorsed by the House earlier in the session.
“I call on the governor to send a message that the days of last-minute giveaways at the state Capitol are over,” he said.