Romney’s surrogates’ position on wind tax credit at odds with his own

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DENVER -- As Mitt Romney prepares for a swing state bus tour this weekend that may culminate with his announcement of a running-mate, his top surrogates continue to criss-cross the country on his behalf.

In Denver Monday, the Romney campaign held a "Strengthening our Middle Class" event at the Rio Grande Company that featured Colorado Congressman Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, and Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, whose name had been mentioned as a potential running mate.

"It has become harder for small businesses to create jobs, not easier," Thune said during a press conference. "I'm afraid that we are headed for a train wreck in this country unless we can get this country turned around."

Gardner and Thune agree on Romney, who they argued would be able to fix the country's still sputtering economy.

But they also agree on something else -- the need to extend the wind energy Production Tax Credit, which Romney said last week he opposes.

Earlier this year, Gardner joined all but one member of Colorado's congressional delegation -- Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, opposes it -- in supporting the extension of the wind PTC.

And in February, Thune was one of 12 senators who signed a bipartisan letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., urging the swift passage of the wind PTC extension.

"The future of the American wind industry requires a stable tax environment in which to operate," the letter began.

"As our country seeks healthy industries and increasing job opportunities to aid in our economic growth, we urge you to pursue an extension of the wind production tax credit as soon as possible."

But in an interview with FOX31 Denver Monday, Thune was hesitant to express his full-fledged support for the wind PTC, which puts him at odds with the candidate he's flying all around the country to support.

"I think Gov. Romney is right to say that the government should not be in the position of picking winners and losers," Thune told FOX31 Denver. "We need to look at what we can do to phase out federal support."

When reminded that the CEO of Vestas has stated that Congress's failure to extend the wind PTC would likely force him to lay off roughly 1,000 Colorado employees, Thune acknowledged that the tax credit has supported jobs here and in his home state.

"Colorado benefits from wind, South Dakota benefits from wind," Thune said. "I've supported the wind energy tax credit because it's been good in terms of my state's economy and some of the jobs that come with it."

When FOX31 asked Thune directly if he still supports the wind PTC and stands by the letter he signed in February, he said this:

"I don't think you can go overnight and say, okay we're going to take this away today. But I think the goal ought to be -- and I think this is what Gov. Romney was getting at -- is getting away from the government picking winners and losers when it comes to the kind of energy we support."

Colorado environmentalists scoffed at that argument.

"The irony in all this is that Mitt Romney talks about a level playing field for all sources of energy," said Pete Maysmith, the executive director of Colorado Conservation Voters. "In fact, he's got his thumb on the scales in favor of big oil.

"Four billion dollars a year in subsidies go to big oil. Mitt Romney supports those subsidies yet doesn't support helping wind energy grow as an energy source here in Colorado."

Thune told FOX31 he's optimistic that Romney, as president, would reform the nation's tax code and end subsidies for all energy companies, including oil and gas.