"4 to Tweak" debate


A few days ago I wrote that the people pushing for the new $62 million Tulsa County sales tax didn't seem to want to participate in today's debate at the Tulsa County Republican Men's Club (TCRMC). Late in the day Thursday, Commissioner Randi Miller decided she would make herself available to debate Councilor Chris Medlock after all.

A large crowd filled The Fountains Restaurant's largest dining area today. As people signed in and paid for lunch, each paid-up member of the TCRMC ($20 / year) was given a copy of the official sample ballot for a straw poll to be taken at the end of the debate.

I'm not going to try right now to provide a detailed account of the debate. Neither debater overwhelmed the crowd. Miller relied on a PowerPoint presentation during her 10 minutes. Medlock had written a speech and pretty much put on his reading glasses and read it; he was much more effective during the rebuttal and Q&A when he was speaking extemporaneously.

During Q&A I asked Commissioner Miller why the County couldn't use its use tax to finance the most critical need (juvenile justice center and courthouse improvements). It would supply about $4 million a year under the lower rate that would be in effect if the new "4 to Fix" tax fails. The use tax paid for renovation of the Pavilion and other fairgrounds improvements.

Miller asked me where my use tax numbers came from. They are from the Oklahoma Tax Commission's monthly sales tax reports, which you can find on their website. I took the 18 months from the March 2004 through August 2005 reports. (Because of reporting deadlines, the March 2004 report was the first report with the higher county tax rate after the Vision 2025 tax went into effect.) In those 18 months, Tulsa County collected $7.3 million in use taxes. Adjusting that number for the use tax rate without the 1/6th cent "4 to Fix" tax (use tax rate can only be as high as the sales tax rate), and for a year rather than 18 months, it comes to $4,075,528.30. The County's Proposition 1 is for 12% of the projected $62 million total -- that's $7.4 million, which the use tax could cover in a little under two years. Why not reprioritize that money, spend it on the courts and justice system instead of on improving the fairgrounds, which is already in wonderful shape?

58 TCRMC members voted in the straw poll. The "no" side prevailed on all four propositions -- ranging from a 58-42 margin for Proposition 2 (parks) to a 51-49 margin for Proposition 4 (roads). (You'll find the ballot resolutions for the four propositions here.)

I was surprised not to see any "vote yes" brochures. Someone had printed up copies of my Urban Tulsa Weekly column on the topic, and someone else made some "vote no" yard signs.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 18, 2005 10:32 PM.

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