Treat wants to know why Oklahoma keeps losing business developments

(The Center Square) – Oklahoma lost a major manufacturer for the second time in two years, and Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat wants to know why. 

Volkswagen Group announced it is locating an electric battery plant in Canada. The plant is the first gigafactory for cell manufacturing and will open in 2027, according to a news release from the company. 

Oklahoma lawmakers revamped its $698 million LEAD Act last month in hopes of snaring the plant. The bill passed the Legislature in April 2021 when the state was courting a Panasonic electric battery plant. Panasonic chose a site in Kansas instead, despite the tax incentives. 

“Oklahoma has abundant resources, qualified employees and a legislature and executive branch that is friendly to the business community,” Treat said in a statement. “We have a history of going out of our way to offer advantages other states cannot. There is no reason for us to continuously lose out to another state in this country on major business developments.”

Treat said he is developing an Economic Development Select Committee to study Oklahoma’s economic landscape.

“We will hear from business experts, company executives, state officials and everyone else to make Oklahoma more attractive to major employers,” Treat said.

Democrats blamed the loss of the plants on the state’s recent policies. 

“If we want big companies like Volkswagen to choose Oklahoma over other states and countries like Canada, we need more than just tax incentives,” said House Democratic Leader Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City, in a statement. “We need lawmakers to stop making laws that limit access to healthcare for women and transgender Oklahomans. We need the Governor and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to stop working to defund and denounce our public schools.”

The revised version of the LEAD Act requires the Department of Commerce to return funding for the bill to the general fund if a viable company has not committed to the state by April 15. 

One lawmaker is challenging the LEAD Act, calling it “a failed attempt to entice business to Oklahoma using corporate welfare.”

House Bill 1381, sponsored by Rep. Tom Gann, R-Inola, was introduced in February. 

“We need to stop the giveaway of tax dollars to those who don’t need it and instead give back to the Oklahoma taxpayer,” Gann said in a news release. 

The bill was assigned to the Revenue and Taxation Subcommittee of the Appropriations and Budget Finance Committee but has not been scheduled for a hearing.

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