Oklahoma House rapidly advances tax incentive one day after plea from Gov. Stitt

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — In a rare and rapid move, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a major piece of legislation within 24 hours of it being introduced to lawmakers.

House Bill 4455 is a $698 million dollar rebate program that would be put in place to attract a Fortune 500 company to build a major facility in the Mid-America Industrial Park in Pryor.

The bill is being fast tracked after lawmakers in Kansas passed a $1.3 billion package of incentives to attract the same company.

“If we don’t pass this, we definitely won’t get it,” House Pro Temp Kyle Hilbert (R-Depew) said of the project on the house floor Tuesday morning to his colleagues.

HB 4455 was featured in a press conference by Governor Kevin Stitt (R) on Monday where he pleaded for lawmakers to act and act fast to show the company the state is serious about its investment.

The bill had both bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition, and some lawmakers who voted against the bill during a House committee meeting on Monday changed their minds by the time the bill reached the House floor saying they had a better understanding of the bill as discussions continued into the night, and certain caucuses held meetings with Hilbert and others to talk about their concerns.

The bill passed 81-17.

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Those opposed to the bill said they feared they were setting up corporate welfare in Oklahoma for this single company which clearly has funds because it is a Fortune 500 company. Those members said they were frustrated they were being told to support the bill without being presented with the full information of the proposal.

Stitt and other lawmakers in on the deal signed non-disclosure agreements while working with the company on an incentive package that could attract the company.

Hilbert pointed out that the company would not get the money up front, but HB 4455 would kick in only after the company had met certain hiring requirements in its first years of operation.

“They are getting this after they meet certain requirements,” he said. “No one is getting money up front.”

Between the talk about the business being in Pryor and Kansas lawmakers passing their own incentives, some have been putting the pieces together to figure out what is likely being proposed.

Earlier this month, a Japanese news organization reported Panasonic executives were considering construction of a new mega-factory for the construction of a new type of electric vehicle battery. Those batteries will be used in future Tesla automobiles. According to reports and people FOX23 spoke with who did not want to be quoted, Panasonic is interested in Kansas and Oklahoma because of its close proximity to Tesla’s new giga-factory in Austin, Texas.

Oklahoma lawmakers who crafted the bill with the governor and said though it is a lot of money, there is more than enough in the rainy day fund to meet this obligation and fund state services if an economic downturn comes at the same time the company is looking to cash in.

To put this in perspective, the State of Oklahoma’s total annual budget $27.8 billion. Because of a surplus, the Rainy Day Fund is fuller than it has ever been in state history, and lawmakers are considering multiple ways to give that money back to Oklahomans in the form of growing business opportunities to eliminating the state’s portion of the sales tax on groceries.

The bill now heads to the State Senate for consideration where lawmakers are also prepared to move quickly.

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