Preservationists across the state are cautiously celebrating a last-minute reversal of legislation they say would have crippled building renovations across the state and left some developers bankrupt.
A budget agreement announced on May 21, with one week left in the 2010 legislative session, would have included 20 percent historic tax credits among a list of such incentives to be placed under a two-year moratorium. Preservation Oklahoma and Oklahoma Historical Society Director Bob Blackburn asked legislators to reconsider the moratorium, noting it could bankrupt developers with projects already under way and depending on promised tax credits to be paid when renovations are complete. Instead, with just an hour left before the Legislature convened Friday, the House and Senate approved changes to historic tax credits that changed the moratorium to a two-year deferral. The change allows developers to still recoup the tax credits — though with a two-year delay. Chuck Wiggin, who is developing the Mayo 420 building in Tulsa with tax credits, was among those hoping to see the moratorium modified. "What this means for the historic preservation community across the state is that this tax credit, which has been the single most effective way to stimulate restoration of historic structures, has been acknowledged by the Legislature to be just that,” Wiggin said. "This is not about any one project or situation. There are people who have been working on projects for many years and have a lot at stake financially.” Blackburn noted 37 projects stood to be hit by the moratorium. "This is a huge win,” Blackburn said.