The State of Oregon's increased tax breaks for renewable energy businesses has been a subject of debate in and out of Salem lately because of a proposal to double the already sizable credit. As reported by several outlets, The Oregon House Revenue Committee has voted to forward an energy tax credit proposal for the full Legislature's consideration next month.
More than 170 projects worth around $200 million won preliminary go-ahead for renewable energy tax credits last year. Tax credits were boosted to as much as 50 percent of a project's cost. PPM energy alone received $33 million in tax credits for its Klondike III wind farm in eastern Sherman County. That's a lot of money that could have been allocated for schools, health care, and other budget strapped coffers.
Being a political lefty, I also don't always feel great about the huge tax breaks that are routinely used to attract companies. Why should they get it so easy when individual households and our essential institutions pay the price?
Still, I'm reminded of the examples in Germany, Denmark and other European countries that have attracted many millions of dollars in economic benefit thanks to the large number of companies in solar power, wind and various other alternative energy companies. If you remove it, they will come. And it's already begun here in Oregon, too.
Ideally, there would be as much tax revenue as ever being generated for Oregon, just coming at a lower rate from a wider volume of sources. It makes total sense. I just feel a little funny because it sounds a lot like the argument made for trickle-down, Reaganomics, the Laffer Curve and all that stuff from the 80s, which is not something I'm philosophically not onboard with, despite growing up in a household where it was gospel.
"The truth is Oregon's tax breaks for renewable energy businesses are working," an editorial from last Friday's Oregonian read. "How else to explain the glut of companies seeking these benefits?" Renewable energy businesses also tend to create family-wage jobs, the editors also wrote. "By accepting lower than possible tax revenues today, Oregon is investing in its place in tomorrow's greener economy."
In the end I find it hard to argue with the green energy tax credits. I'm not sure yet if it's changing times or a special case. How do the rest of you feel?