MAPS no vaccine against slump

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Proponents of a new downtown sports arena, and proponents of raising taxes in general, often point to Oklahoma City as an example of what we could be if only Tulsans would tax themselves more. The claim is made that if we "invest" in a new sports arena and other public facilities, the economy will grow, and sales tax revenues will increase. Then we will have more money for basic services like public safety, street maintenance, and parks.

The kickoff press release from "Forfeit 4 Greater Taxes" claims that the cause of Tulsa's economic woes are due to the refusal of Tulsans to raise their own taxes:

Urban planners, local government officials and business leaders cite the two prior failed sales tax initiatives in 1997 and 2000 among the causes of the regions protracted economic slump. Oklahoma Cityís MAPS project, a downtown revitalization effort, has generated some $1.1 billion in private investment and created scores of new jobs for the area. Meanwhile, greater Tulsa has continued to struggle.

So the troubles of CFS, WorldCom, Williams, and American Airlines were caused by the refusal of Tulsans to raise taxes to build a Downtown Sports Arena? Fascinating. Somehow I had the impression that questionable business practices and a massive terrorist attack were involved in the loss of thousands of high-paying, high-tech jobs.

Meanwhile, according to the "Forfeit 4 Greater Taxes" PR guy, Oklahoma City has created "scores of new jobs". I take this to mean between 40 and 199. If there were 200 or more, he could have written "hundreds"; less than 40 and he couldn't have said "scores". So Oklahoma City's billion-dollar investment has created at most 199 jobs -- that's over $5 million per job. I believe I could live very comfortably on the interest from that, even at today's rates.

Did MAPS immunize OKC from budget woes? What is OKC's fiscal situation? Their city budget and finance website describes it as a "budget crisis" -- cuts of 11% in most departments, 2% in police and fire. From OKC's 2003-2004 budget document (a large PDF file):

Sales tax collections for FY 2002-2003 are expected to end the fiscal year with a total of $139.3 million, which is 1.88% below the sales tax collected in FY 2001-2002. For the first time since the late 1980ís, the General Fund is experiencing sales tax receipts that are lower than the previous year.

And what about all that convention business?

Hotel/motel tax revenue sustained a fairly significant decline during FY 2002-2003, with an expected year-end decrease of 4.12% below prior year collections.

And like Tulsa, they're raising money to keep the pools open.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 16, 2003 1:20 PM.

Kansas City's risky offer to AA was the previous entry in this blog.

Buy local: Hire Tulsa's top talent is the next entry in this blog.

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