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Oklahoma venture capital board headed out, must make good on $20 million

State lawmakers wanting to do away with the Oklahoma Capital Investment Board say they must unravel a dicey situation that could leave taxpayers with a hefty bill.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND Published: May 4, 2012

The utility companies have enough tax credits and don't want any more, Sears said. And ultimately, it would mean that money would be lost from state coffers when the utilities claim their tax credits.

So Sears co-authored Senate Bill 1159 with Sen. Tom Adelson, D-Tulsa, that, among other things, extends the life of the investment board by five years. It was set to expire in 2015.

“That's why we extended it, to make sure that as this program unwound no one would get hurt,” Sears said.

The bill passed the House and Senate during this year's legislative session and is in a conference committee.

Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, said the state should shut down the investment board immediately and not wait another five years.

“They've squandered $60 million of Oklahoma taxpayer money, and taxpayers are continuing to fund the salary of the individuals who run the board,” Reynolds said.

Sauzek said the investment board contracted with the private company Institutional Equity Associates for $360,000 a year to manage the investments. He said that money is not state appropriated, but is paid for out of the board's financial holdings, which include loans and returns on investments.

Sauzek said the board has invested more than $135 million in 33 Oklahoma companies.

The returns on those investments have been roughly $80 million over the past 20 years, he said, including $8 million in just the past two years.

Figures questioned

Reynolds questions those numbers and said that many of the investments were in out-of-state companies.

Sears said he doesn't think the board has done anything nefarious.

“I don't think they've mismanaged their money,” Sears said.

“There is no question there are some venture projects that have created programs and wealth, but some of them have not created the programs we wanted. This could be a program in Rhode Island or Maine.”

He said it's time for the state to get out of the venture capital business.

3 tax credit programs to end

Lawmakers are letting three other venture capital programs expire that give tax credits to private companies or individuals investing in startup businesses. The tax credits are for investments in venture capital, small business venture capital and rural small business venture capital.


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