Step Up Oklahoma Ends State Budget Crisis Talks With Wind Coalition
OKLAHOMA CITY - The Step Up Oklahoma coalition has ended talks with The Wind Coalition, citing concerns that wind lobbyists were undermining efforts to solve the state’s budget crisis, according to a letter published Friday evening.
The group of business and civic leaders pushing this package, Step Up Oklahoma, sent a scathing letter to Jeffrey Clark, President of The Wind Coalition, ending negotiations with them, due to being, "purposefully misled."
The revenue side of the proposal includes increases in the state's tobacco tax, fuel tax, gross production tax on oil and natural gas, and, for the first time, a tax on wind energy production. The published proposal calls for a tax of $1 per megawatt hour, which is estimated to provide $23 million in new revenue to the state in the tax's first full year.
Step Up leaders say they'd been meeting with wind industry leaders, at their request, to listen to their concerns and potentially agree on a revenue option more agreeable to them.
But in the letter, Step Up says it discovered the wind industry had its lobbyists trying to derail the plan at the same time.
"All the while we were meeting with you and your organization," the letter states, "you were executing a stealth campaign with the media to undermine our efforts to help the State of Oklahoma through Step Up Oklahoma."
Mark Yates, spokesperson for the Wind Coalition, sent News 9 the following response:
Step Up leaders say, while this has taken up valuable time, work on writing the actual bills has continued. Multiple sources say lawmakers could be asked to vote on the legislation by the end of next week, the first week of session.
In an interview earlier this week, House Speaker Charles McCall, said the revenue-raising measures would be in one bill, the reforms in separate bills.
"And that's to make sure it passes constitutional muster with the courts," said Rep. McCall. "On a package like this, you don't want to pass something and it to be overturned because it was not structured properly, or deemed to be log-rolling."