Giving away the (wind) farm

Wind and nuke jobs coming at high cost to Texas economy

Where's the 'quit-taking-my-money' switch? Hard-up West Texas schools...

Greg Harman
[email protected]

Thanks to a little renewable-energy windfall known as wind farms, many West Texas counties are reaping big money these days. And they're not sending it on to the state to be divided up among school districts the way we've long done with oil and natural gas revenue.

With roots firmly anchored in the Texas Economic Development Act of 2001, these small towns and rural counties have worked out detailed tax abatement schemes with the wind companies and managed to keep the revenue from going to the â??Robin Hood' program intended to spread such wealth across the state's school districts.

According to the Associated Press, 44 school districts will take in $248 million in the next 10 years, their share of more than $700 million in tax breaks doled out.

But that's not the only problem with Chapter 313 School Property Tax abatements, according to Dick Lavine, a senior analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

“As job creation, it doesn't really work very well,” said Lavine.

And it's true. When when one considers how much the various industries are getting in tax breaks per job, the wind and nuclear deals start looking not so hot.

In agreements being inked for wind companies, for instance, the state is prepared to extend $1.5 million per job created, according to numbers crunched by the Texas Comptroller's office.

For the two nuke projects on file â?? including the expansion of the South Texas Project â?? the state is offering $1 million for each of the suggested 500 jobs.

Governor Perry and his Bidness per Usual brunch club are pushing to get a 4-year renewal of the school tax code under HB 3676.

While the bill is scheduled to be debated today, Lavine thinks it could be pushed to Wednesday, the last day proposed legislation can be considered.

All told, the extension of 313 for the next four years will cost the state an estimated $2.4 billion.

Lavine's analysis of the Comptroller's data suggests Toyota and Samsung have together provided half of all the jobs created by 313 programs, though they represent a fraction (about six percent) of the expense.

The break-per-job ratio at San Antonio's Toyota plant, for instance, represents a “mere” $30,000 per job. Way to keep it roughly respectable, SA!


You can check out the Comptroller's own numbers in the report below.

Texas Comptroller's Report on Econ Development Act


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