Third-penny roundup

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Tomorrow Tulsa votes on a new one-percent sales tax, a tax that will stay in effect until it raises nearly half a billion dollars. I'll be on KFAQ, starting at 6:40 (a bit later than normal) for my usual Tuesday slot, then joining a panel discussion about the tax after the 7am news.

Here's a link to a 19-page PDF with the official ordinance containing the approved lists of projects.

I haven't had much to say about this one. My preferred solution -- 18 month extension to finish unfunded 2001 sales tax projects -- was passed over by a rush of deal-making by the last council. There are plenty of needed projects, but there's a lot that doesn't seem worthy of the third-penny, which was originally envisioned as a tax devoted to long-term capital improvements -- not computer equipment, not "rolling stock" (e.g., police cars), but things with a life span of 20 years or better.

If it failed, it wouldn't be the end of the world. The new mayor and council could put together a new package focused more on necessities, less on frills. It would mean a couple of months with a lower sales tax rate, rather than a seamless continuation of the same rate.

In the course of putting together my own roundup, I came across Steve Roemerman's comprehensive aggregation of third-penny sales tax stories, which he started collecting back in September.

Here's what other Tulsa bloggers are saying about the issue. I won't duplicate Steve's excellent effort, but I will pull out a few quotes of note.

Mad Okie says send it back to the drawing board:

If this proposal was about infrastructure and roads I wouldnt even be typing this, but its about repairing pools we cant afford to fill, improving roads & parking for an arena we cant afford to build, its for repairing a roof on a convention center that Vision 2025 is supposed to fix.

Voting this penny down will not destroy Tulsa, but it will show that you are not a sheep willing to be herded around by your city masters.

Bobby Holt
has a problem with the priorities, not with the penny:

I'm not against the 3rd Penny Sales Tax. My problem is the priorities that management, our elected officials, set. Every capital project can be categorized as either "needs" or "wants" and the current capital project listing for this 3rd penny is full of both. Basic needs of a city, public safety, roads, water, and sewer should take the largest chunk out of this tax. If not, our elected officials have their priorities askew.... So once again Tulsans have what appears to be a quickly thrown together package with a hefty list of "wants" attached to it.

Red Bug of Tulsa Chiggers writes:

Somehow over the decades this penny has been hijacked in usual fashion by those not so concerned with our crumbling infrastructure, but for a hodgepodge of porcine projects.

Our streets are a disgrace. Anyone with any reasoning knows that we need a major emphasis on improving streets. Yet this third penny gives only a token amount to street projects. My problem is not with the third penny so much as the priority of projects and what the projects themselves represent.

If, by some miracle, this tax is defeated, it only means we are telling politicans we don't like this plan, roll up your sleeves and give us another practical choice.

Dan Paden wonders how we afforded streets and police and fire protection and water service thirty-some years ago on a sales tax rate half of today's:

Oh, I remember the bad old days, back when I was a kid. Sales tax was only about four and a half cents on the dollar. Of course, we had no police, no fire department. No streets. No safety and no security. No city-county health department.

What? You don't believe that? But if we had all that, back then, at about four cents on the dollar less than we are paying now, what's all the extra money been for?

Buying votes, of course. If you're as sick of it as I am, then I encourage you to vote no on the Third Penny as well.

MeeCiteeWurkor hints at his preference.

Dave Schuttler reminds us that we still have a choice.

Regarding the second item on the ballot, which would add temporary hangars for the American Airlines maintenance base, Bobby has a link to a Daily Oklahoman article about an aerospace analyst who calls attention to the changing aircraft maintenance business and the risks of cities investing in that industry:

American Airlines is the only domestic airline that continues to do its own aircraft maintenance and is expanding operations to take on the work of other airlines. In the last few years, several U.S. airlines have been liquidated or filed for bankruptcy. Other airlines have continued to send their maintenance and repair work to outside contractors in the United States and around the world.

"This is a high-risk business," said William Alderman, president of Alderman & Co., a Connecticut-based aerospace and defense investment banking company. "Projects like this where state and local governments have invested money have been a complete disaster."

Alderman pointed to the United Airlines maintenance center in Indianapolis, where the state invested millions to get the center, only to have it shut down leaving workers without jobs. Oklahoma City was among the cities competing for the airline's maintenance facility in 1991. Losing the bid for the facility caused city leaders to put together the MAPS sales tax program.


Jim Rice said:

I voted NO for the third Penny because they arnt doing anything they are promissing NOW! Boy the people of Tulsa can sure be stupid.

Bob said:

Good analysis and discussion by all on the KFAQ-A.M. Del Giorno show this a.m.

Mssrs. Jim Hewgley III, Terry Simonson, Charlie Biggs and Michael Bates thoroughly reviewed the history and original purpose of the "Itty-Bitty Third Penny" Sales Tax, its "temporary nature" from its inception in 1980, and how its purpose has been purloined from its original purpose of street and road improvement into any and all sundry manner of "capital" expenditures.

In fact, it was remarked that spending for Roads and Street improvements will fall to only 27% of the total spending package from 48% dedicated at the 2001 Sales Tax Renewal.

For those listening, it was obvious that our city government has not been good stewards of our hard-earned money.

Accordingly, I hope many concerned Tulsans were listening to these Wise Men this a.m., and will vote NO accordingly.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 8, 2006 11:07 PM.

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