Oklahoma House leaders have reached a deal with Democrats for a new tax on wind power.
The agreement came after a morning of closed-door meetings on both sides of the aisle. Republicans began the day hoping to hear another measure that would have capped wind industry tax credits, but they abandoned those efforts by the end of business Thursday.
As a new tax, the proposal requires at least 76 votes in the House and 36 in the Senate to pass. If it becomes law, it would be just the second tax increase in almost three decades. Last month, lawmakers approved a slate of new taxes on oil and gas, cigarettes and fuel.
After the House adjourned, Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols and Minority Floor Leader David Perryman sat down to hammer out details of the new proposal.
What is known so far is that the deal would place a $1 per megawatt hour tax on the production of wind energy, but only for new projects. The proposal also will include what's been dubbed "section nine," a guarantee that the gross production tax will expire if a future Legislature tries to eliminate or cap the industry's incentives.
House leaders expected to bring up Senate Bill 888 on Thursday, a bill that would end refunds of unused wind tax credits. As the hours ticked by, however, it became clear that the bill wasn't making the kind of political progress they'd hoped.
Just before the House adjourned, Echols announced a deal was reached on the latest proposal.
"We're fine-tuning all the details on how we're going to get that presented on Monday," Echols, R-Oklahoma City, told The Oklahoman. "It will be stable, recurring revenue on an ongoing basis."
Perryman, D-Chickasha, said new projects can't benefit from any incentive tweaks because they've all been eliminated in earlier bills.
"This is not monkeying with the incentives for new projects because they don't exist," Perryman said. "'Section nine' would prevent there being an alteration to vested incentives that have already been earned."
The wind industry is on board with the deal. The Wind Coalition's Oklahoma Executive Director Mark Yates said lawmakers should be applauded for a "reasonable and responsible solution."
"The decision that was made today is good for the state of Oklahoma, and it's fair, and it's not punitive to the wind industry," Yates said.