Two bills intended to help Oklahoma's electric vehicle industry are moving through the state Legislature. If they become law, EV engineers could avoid paying part of the state income tax if they settle in Oklahoma, and companies that invest in EV technology could receive tax breaks. Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses the specifics of the proposed legislation.
Drew Hutchinson: This is the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I’m Drew Hutchinson. Joining me is Russell Ray, editor of The Journal Record. This week, we’re talking about legislation moving through the Oklahoma House that could bolster the electric vehicle industry in the state. State Representative Brian Hill, a Republican from Mustang, wants to offer tax incentives to engineers and businesses involved in the EV industry. Russell, there are two key pieces of legislation on the table here, but I want to mainly focus on one, which is HB 3112. What should we know about this bill?
Russell Ray: Well House Bill 3112 would allow for engineers specializing in EV battery development to avoid paying some state income tax as an incentive for them settle here in Oklahoma. The bill does include a sunset clause, which would allow lawmakers to evaluate the bill’s success after five years.
Hutchinson: Rep. Hill’s argument for the bill is kind of that historically, Oklahoma is an energy state, and that includes a fairly decent foothold in the EV sector, and that maybe we should capitalize on this. He mentioned an Oklahoma City company called Spiers New Technologies, which he said has found a niche by repairing, manufacturing and repurposing battery packs found in hybrid and electric vehicles. And the company’s clients are some big names, including Ford, Audi and Volkswagen.
Ray: That’s right. We’ve done a couple of stories about Spiers and its expansion plans in Oklahoma City. The company said it has benefited from its central U.S. location near the intersection of interstates 35 and 40. We’re told Oklahoma’s charging station network for electric vehicles is among the nation’s best. Thanks to a $50 million investment by Francis Renewable Energy, Oklahoma drivers are never more than 50 miles from a charging station, which is well within the range of today’s EVs.
Hutchinson: Another way that Rep. Hill is kind of framing this legislation is by comparing the EV industry in Oklahoma which is the aerospace industry, which has been successful in the state. A few years ago, there were only about 300 aerospace engineers in Oklahoma. But after a bill similar to House Bill 3112 offered tax incentives to attract more aerospace engineers, we saw those job numbers increase.
Ray: That’s right. As you said, House Bill 3112 is mirrored after the aerospace legislation. The hope is that it will boost the number of jobs in the EV industry in the same way it increased jobs for the aerospace industry. Hill said he believes 10 years from now we’ll see the same kind of impact on jobs in this emerging industry in Oklahoma.
Hutchinson: So, as I kind of mentioned before, HB 3112 involves letting EV engineers avoid paying some of the state income tax if they decide to settle in Oklahoma. Russell, can you take us through the specifics of this?
Ray: Well specifically, the bill would allow engineers in the EV field to avoid paying up to $25,000 in state income taxes spread out across five years. Hill said electrical engineers in EV battery development is a small group, but if the state can become a central hub for the industry, it could lead to serious improvements for the state economy 10 years down the road.
Hutchinson: Really briefly, let’s touch on the other piece of proposed legislation in question, House Bill 3115. This one would modify an existing law that offers tax breaks to new companies, and would make it include pre-established companies that might consider EV investments.
Ray: Well Hill said 80 percent of job growth comes from pre-existing companies, so we need to make sure that as we try to bring other companies into the state, established Oklahoma companies like Spiers have that same opportunity.
Hutchinson: Thank you so much for your time today, Russell.
Ray: My pleasure, Drew. Thank you.
Hutchinson: Russell Ray is editor of The Journal Record. KGOU and The Journal Record collaborate each week on the Business Intelligence Report. You can follow us both on social media. We're on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @journalrecord and @KGOUnews. The story we discussed today is available on JournalRecord.com. And this conversation, along with previous episodes of the Business Intelligence Report, are available on our website, KGOU.org. For KGOU and the Business Intelligence Report, I'm Drew Hutchinson.
The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.
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