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As Okla. invests in electric vehicles, Sen. James Lankford decries EV tax breaks and other spending initiatives

Sen. James Lankford addresses the U.S. Senate on Dec. 16
Sen. James Lankford addresses the U.S. Senate on Dec. 16

Sen. James Lankford enumerates his problems with President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan.

Speaking on the floor of the Senate last week, Lankford grimly listed groups he said like Build Back Better: wealthy Democrats, unions, environmental groups, local reporters, and people who buy electric vehicles.

Though Oklahoma itself has provided $300 millionin tax breaks for EV maker Canoo, Lankford criticized a credit EV buyers would get under Build Back Better.

“Somebody else who likes this bill are the wealthy who actually buy electric vehicles,” Lankford said. “Incredibly expensive, beautiful vehicles some of them. But they get $12,500 off their vehicle based on this bill.”

Lankford went on to say unions also like Build Back Better because the legislation makes $250worth of union dues tax deductible. Environmentalists like it because they will get money.

“They get additional billions of dollars. In fact, there’s billions of dollars to create a new Civilian Climate Corps, a group of young people who will travel around the country actually promoting environmentalism,” said Lankford.

But it’s local reporters who “really, really like” Build Back Better, Lankford said. He said the media deliberately hasn’t covered portions of the legislation.

“Some of them are not talking about the content of this bill,” said Lankford. “The reason I say that? Because this bill pays half the salary for reporters and journalists all over the country.”

Build Back Better includes a payroll tax credit for struggling community outlets. According to the Pew Research Center, newspaper journalism positions declined from 71,000 in 2008 to 31,000 in 2020 — a 57 percent drop.

Under Build Back Better, eligible outlets would get $25,000 for each local journalist they hire in the first year, with $15,000 set aside for the remaining four years.

Finally, Lankford criticized Build Back Better because parents getting the Child Tax Credit might not have jobs.

“If you’re not working, but you’re able to work and you choose not to, you get thousands and thousands of dollars in benefits,” said Lankford.

Childcare is one big reason a person who could work might otherwise not be able to. According to a report shared by the U.S. Census Bureau, one-third of all mothers in the country with school-aged children were not working in Jan. 2021.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.