Archives for category: Taxes

“Perryman Comments on Wind Catcher Project Cancellation”

State Rep. David Perryman issued an official statement from the State House regarding the cancelation of the Wind Catcher project. Typical of politicians nowadays, he disparaged and cast blame. I’m not sure why the most important industry in Oklahoma was the target, but maybe it is good for votes in his district (but I doubt it). How does casting blame and disparagement make the world a better place?

Oklahoma dodged a bullet, and we should be appreciative to Texas for taking the brunt of the blame.

Big money investors, including Warren Buffett’s folks, were backing Wind Catcher. Their spiel was that the $4.5 billion would be rewarded over the next 25 years with net savings to the whole project (of which Oklahoma only had about a fifth) would amount to $7 billion. Of course, Oklahoma bears all the property value costs, none of which would ever be recovered. If it was so good, why did they need ratepayers to foot the bill so early?

I think politicians mourning the loss are disingenuous at best.

Oklahoma didn’t need Wind Catcher, and we don’t need make-work government projects, which is more or less what it would amount to.

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https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-26/largest-u-s-wind-project-dealt-potentially-fatal-blow-in-texas

“Texas dealt a potential death blow to what would be the largest-ever U.S. wind farm: American Electric Power Co.’s $4.5 billion Wind Catcher project.”

Not really. If Warren Buffett and his big-money pals really think this is a boon, they can continue. They only have to accept all the risk, or at least a lot more of it. The hypocritical investors want to pay as they go with ratepayer money, years before any power is produced. If they are willing to pony up the funds themselves, the building approvals will mostly be clear sailing. (The powerline is still a problem. Significant oversight on the part of the investors, and obvious hubris.)

“American Electric’s proposal tapped a financial model that utilities have long used to build nuclear, coal- and natural gas-fired plants: by tacking costs — plus a profit — onto customers’ bills. The company asked regulators in four states for permission to use the strategy for a sprawling project…”

This isn’t quite true. Oklahoma utilities don’t earn a profit. It is a cost-basis monopoly. I’m not familiar with Texas, but it must be about the same. Sure, overall, our utilities make money, but it is tightly controlled and transparent. OG&E was going to build a second coal plant next to an existing one. It was in the plans a long time, and there was a significant amount of work to be done before OG&E would be passing costs to ratepayers. When the state-approved planned time came, cold-hearted Scott Meacham overstepped his office and launched a smear campaign against coal. Millions were instantly flushed down the drain, and Oklahoma is paying for it all in higher costs and more pain on the least among us. Our bats and birds are being slaughtered for it too. It is the fear that we will never be able to build more reliable coal plants that is causing us to engage in these risky and unreliable wind schemes.

These investors aren’t playing fair. They won’t take the risk. I mean, can’t Warren Buffett write a check for the full $4.5 billion today? It isn’t like they don’t have the money if they have the confidence they are advertising.

There is another tell. Why is Wind Catcher advertising with all these feel-good PR spots on radio and TV?

“American Electric’s Southwestern Electric Power has proposed owning 70 percent of the 2-gigawatt project. Arkansas and Louisiana already approved the plans. Oklahoma has yet to issue a final decision. The project includes a transmission line to take the power to Tulsa and into Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana.”

Oklahoma is balking, and Texas refused. Note the share of risk. Texas has a full 70% and Oklahoma has most of the rest. Is it any wonder Arkansas and Louisiana approved? They share almost no risk regardless.

Note the blatant falsehood of 2GW. We can ignore the conflation of power with energy because the point remains. The hand-wavers point to 800 towers with 2.5-megawatt capacity turbines on them. 800 x 2.5 = 2,000, right? Sure, but how much does one typically get from a given wind turbine? Here is the fact: The transmission line is only being built for 600 megawatts!

https://newsok.com/article/5587106/oklahomas-corporation-commission-asks-public-service-co.-of-oklahoma-to-seek-settlement-on-its-wind-catcher-plan

If the 800 towers ever actually exist, and if 100% are running at peak capacity, then over two-thirds of the power will be dissipated and wasted because it cannot be carried on the transmission line. Of course, 100% capacity is practically impossible. An average efficiency of 30% is probably a little optimistic. It is probably optimistic to suppose all 800 towers will ever stand at the same time, for that matter.

If Wind Catcher is a good deal, the investors should stop trying to pass costs on to the public until power is feeding into the grid. If Wind Catcher is good, prove it. Prove me wrong. The saddest fact hasn’t even come up yet: Taxes.

The whole investment doesn’t work without Federal money and Federal and State capital gains tax credits. Most of Warren Buffett’s profit is associated with manipulating taxes and receiving tax money straight out of our pockets. Buffett has done this many times. He invests, he rakes in the taxes, and he bails before the maintenance costs start showing everyone there is no free lunch, not even free breezes.

At best, in 20 to 25 years, all 800 of the bird/bat-choppers will be decrepit and hazardous. Who is going to clean up the mess? Will the investors do it? Will they come back with all their profits and make right for the landowners and land users?

Over and over for over 3,000 years we have abandoned windmills. We will this time, too, and someone has to clean up the mess.

This is one history lesson I wish we could learn. A windmill is a very limited tool, and industrial scale electricity production is not a use for which it is suited.

Oklahoma, did Texas just push us off the tracks in front of the oncoming train? I think so. Are we going to rush right back in front of the locomotive?

Oklahoma is in crisis.

The unions are reporting increased parental support, but they’ve lied so much already I won’t accept anything they say.

I’m heart torn. I hurt. We homeschool. So, it doesn’t directly affect my family, but we’ve always supported our local schools and the teachers we know. The slogan is the walkout is for the kids, but the only fact establishable by empirical evidence is the teachers walked out on the children. It is abandonment, betrayal.

I don’t understand it. I know so many teachers, friends, family (including my daughter), younger, older, former, and current. I cannot doubt the heart of any one of them. I honor and respect everyone one of them. They each have accomplished so much, given so much. I trusted them, would have trusted them, but they did not remain faithful.

Again, I don’t understand. I know these teachers have the biggest, most giving, most loving hearts of any people I’ve known; yet, they walked out.

Not only did the teachers and their unions warn they would hold the children hostage and extort the parents, the parents (and legislators) believed them that their plight was dire (It was.), and the State paid the ransom. The legislators bit the bullet and raised taxes, a large tax increase. Sadly, the old adage held. Pay the ransom and embolden the extortionists.

It is interesting, even praiseworthy, how the teachers have acted, and, moreover, how many in our community have responded. Many private people and businesses have provided goods, services, and cash. It is with very mixed emotions that I watch it all. Despite being intimidated and threatened, we love our teachers and continue to work with them.

Of course, there is very little of anything good can be said of any politician in this whole mess. (Well, a small few, but that is not of concern here.) It is hard to condemn the politicians being under so much stress, intimidation, and disparagement. Some messed up, some just didn’t act right, and a few grandstanded and put on the show at every opportunity, never shying from any deriding or devise remark.

An oft-repeated chant aimed to deride the legislators was, “Do your job!” while teachers constantly thronged them and posted derogatory reports whenever the legislator was trying to attend business rather than offer a sympathetic ear. Teachers have boasted of overcrowding the legislators. Teachers complained when their disruption wouldn’t be tolerated. Teachers (and the grandstanding pols) pitched royal fits when the legislature adjourned early one day, and started slightly late the next. Lose-lose for all the legislators but the grandstanders.

As to doing their job, what is their job? The teachers seem to think it is to raise taxes and give the failing education system more money. Is it the job of the legislature to penalize the citizens of the state to appease the teachers unions?

No, the job of a legislative representative is to represent the people who elected him or her. Being in the district of the chief grandstander, it just might be that the majority in my district did so want more expensive failure in education, and the majority may very well have thought it right that grandstander-in-chief opposed all tax increases for being too small, until the strike was certain. (I wrote him often asking him to not raise my taxes and to not make such spectacle of himself.)

However, it is clear from recent history that most of the voters in most of the districts wanted their legislators to represent their interest in holding the line on tax increases. Maybe moods have changed, but it is simply disingenuous to assert the representatives were failing in their job. The legislators were, in fact, fulfilling their duties and obligations. Again, there is blame can be handed round all round, but on the whole, the legislators were doing their jobs, even while being railed against by the grandstanders and union activists.

Amongst the railing and intimidation and threats, the legislatures settled on a package of tax increases that drew compromise agreement of the required supermajority. A large, and likely painful, tax increase, and there were celebrations and dancing in the streets, even a high-five from the Governor as she rushed to sign the measure.

Yet, the strike was still on.

Come Monday, with new tax increases and new laws funding education confirmed and in the books, the strike came. The teachers walked out of their classrooms leaving students and their parents holding the bag. Betrayal of trust by any objective evaluation.

Yet, the parents bucked up and voiced support. I’ve heard no estimates of how many people had to take off work. The cost has to be over several millions of dollars, just for that first day of the walkout. In Oklahoma, it is illegal for teachers (unions) to strike against the school board (their actual employer). However, the school boards also believed the dire circumstances, and many authorized the walkout, keeping it legal.

Still, day two. Surely the teachers had made their point. Surely, with the extraordinary raise (16 to 18% per teacher, and more money for this and that) and tax burden tolerated, the teachers would be happy, but no. The unions had started the mantra Monday that it was never about the raise, never about “the money,” but about the classrooms, about education in the state as a whole. Oklahoma already spends half of its budget on education. One can argue particulars, but one cannot claim Oklahoma doesn’t care about education. That fact mattered not to the unions.

Now, we’ve muddled through the week. Some schools have called the teachers back to the classrooms. A few never walked out at all. (At least one small district sent a delegation of teachers to represent them while classes continued. Quite reasonable, I believe.)

Still, most, including all the larger districts, day by day canceled class for want of teachers. I know not what most of the school boards have done, but they face the very real possibility of having to fire, perhaps even prosecute, teachers if they (the board members) grow stubborn and insistent. There is no win, only harm, in that prospect. It is still possible. It may come to it in some instance.

I’ve waxed verbose, and I offer my appreciation for reading and sharing my pain. I aim to express my disappointment in the teachers, even in those who have vehemently supported them, but my primary aim is to end the betrayal. I hope the teachers will return to class. It is a sad fight. It is sad that it is a fight at all.

While the teachers say the government has failed, it cannot be said the education system is better. There are systemic problems of myriad sort in our education system, even more than our government system. Both are flawed from inception, with error compounded upon error over the decades. Our defects have grown for more than a century. No thorough fix is possible in even a few years.

But we can start, but not while teachers raise ruckus and disgraced politicians show no shame. The legislators cannot do their job while teachers hinder them.

While I sincerely hope the teachers will return to class Monday, we citizens of Oklahoma, all of us, must continue to call upon our legislature to address the flaws in our systems, all our state systems. They are badly broken. The problems are clear, but the causes are not. The remedies are even more elusive, but we must. We simply must find repairs, and we really must install workable systems before we make them all more expensive. We may find we need more taxes. We likely must revamp our taxing system overall.

No easy answers. We won’t find any if we get complacent. We will repeat this hurtful, tragic fiasco again in a few years if we don’t keep at honest effort for accountability and solutions.

 

Ever notice that for the most part politicians and lawmakers do whatever the heck they want?

They pretend to speak for the people. They pretend to represent our interests, but they just play their power games and do whatever the heck they want. I know there are a few exceptions, but the portion is too small to matter. Even the ones I’m not mad at still play the games; they still just stick it to us any old way that helps them achieve their priorities, priorities that change with the political winds.

On the drive home, I heard some snippets on the radio and composed the following to my legislators. I’ll be surprised if I even get an acknowledgement.

First, I heard on the radio a Democratic congressman blaming everything on the Republicans. Can we stop the childish name calling and blame casting, please? There is plenty of blame to go round, and the problem is spending, not revenue. Focus on the problem and reducing it, not on some preferred band-aid.

I heard on the radio someone claiming “the voters” want higher taxes on oil. Well, no. No, I don’t think they do. I know I don’t.

I really don’t think anyone wants more taxes. Put a volunteer option on the tax forms, and see if anyone donates extra. (I doubt even the outspoken Democratic politicians will.)

Honestly, there are no such things as corporate taxes; there are no such things as taxes on oil. There are only costs to operations, to extraction, and to production. We voters pay for all that no matter what caused the cost. If the oil folks have more taxes, the costs simply go up, and our prices go up to cover it.

I find it disingenuous and deceitful to pretend the gross production tax is simply on the oil companies. No, it is simply on you and me, and we pay it with every tank-full and every heating bill.

I’m good with getting rid of specialty tax laws and exemptions. The leveler the field the better, but let’s be realistic about it. All state taxes come out of the pockets of every Oklahoma citizen, no matter how a given tax is assessed.

We need less spending. We need fewer state programs. We need consolidation in the things we spend on. Mostly, we need the budget reduced.

Figure it out. Do the hard work. Don’t just pass the buck on to me and the rest of Oklahoma’s tax payers and residents.

You can start by repealing the prohibitions. That will lower some budget requirements.

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