Vision Tulsa forum tonight (Tuesday, March 8, 2016)

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The Tulsa County Republican Men's Club is hosting a forum tonight, Tuesday, March 8, 2016, at 7:00 p.m., about the upcoming April 5 vote on the "Vision Tulsa" tax propositions. George McFarlin and I will be there to explain why you should vote against the propositions. I understand that there will be some Vote No yard signs available to opponents, for a donation to cover the cost.

The format of the event keeps changing, as the Vote Yes side has dithered about what format they consider acceptable and whether they will participate at all. This is typical behavior in every tax proposal: The Vote Yes side knows that their case is weak, and they try to limit any opportunity for the Vote No side to be heard, particularly in a debate format where questions may be asked that the proponents would rather not answer. The Vote Yes side will refuse to participate in a forum or debate and then pressure the hosting organization into not holding the event because it wouldn't be fair for only one side to be represented. I'm happy to say that many radio and TV stations and civic organizations are no longer taken in by that argument; they insist that the event will go forward under their rules, whether the Vote Yes side chooses to participate or not. When faced with a resolute debate host, the Vote Yes side will comply more often than not.

In any event, we'll be there and will be prepared to answer specifics about each proposition and project as well as explain why we think "Vision Tulsa" is myopic and a bad deal for Tulsa.


Many thanks to the Tulsa County Republican Men's Club for setting up this forum, to KRMG for mentioning it on the air, and to KTUL for coming out to talk to some of us for a story that aired this evening.

TCRMC worked with members of the City Council to get someone to this meeting to speak in favor of the tax propositions, but none of them showed up. David Schuttler put together a video highlight reel of the meeting. I didn't take a head count, but I think about 30 people were in attendance.

A former councilor, Skip Steele, who used to represent District 6 in east Tulsa, showed up, and he didn't like what he heard. He didn't care for my statement that Vision 2025 failed in its stated mission of economic development. I pointed out that we were promised that if we passed Vision 2025 it would create enough new economic activity through the convention business and tourism that we would have more local sales tax revenues to spend on basic city services like public safety and streets. It manifestly did not work, because now the city is asking is to pass a 17.25% increase in our permanent sales tax rate to cover basic operating expenses. If Vision 2025 had succeeded in growing the economy as promised, retail sales would have gone up so much we wouldn't need to increase the permanent sales tax rate.

Steele also took exception to our statement that the police and fire departments currently use up 100% of the revenues the city derives from the permanent 2% sales tax (an insight first brought to our attention by then-Councilor Bill Martinson in 2009), and that there were other sources of revenue coming into the general fund that pay for non-public-safety expenses.

The facts backed us up. According to page 3-7 of the FY2016 City of Tulsa budget document, in FY2014 (the most recent year for actuals), the city's general fund received $145,998,000 in sales tax revenues. That same fiscal year (page 3-9), the city spent $156,534,000 on Public Safety and Protection, which includes Police, Fire, Municipal Court, and Emergency Management. That's 107% of the revenue from the 2% sales tax.

Beyond the 2% permanent sales tax, the general fund also received revenues from the city's use tax, franchise fees from ONG, PSO, Cox Cable, and the Right of Way Occupancy Fee, hotel/motel taxes, licenses and permits, shared revenue (liquor tax apportionment, gasoline tax, tobacco tax, vehicle license), intergovernmental revenue grants and reimbursements, payments from trust authorities for general government support services, code enforcement fines and fees, PAC revenue, park revenue, fines and forfeitures, airport fire reimbursement, interest income, miscellaneous revenue, and transfers in from other funds. In FY2014, the general fund received $261,176,000 in total annual resources. There's a pie chart on page 3-5 showing how much revenue comes from each category. General fund outlays were $257,709,000 (page 3-11).

Another point that bothered Steele -- something that was incidental to the main topic -- was a reference to property taxes as city revenues. He said the city couldn't draw on property taxes. A gentleman in the audience emphatically pointed to his property tax statement which showed a little over 16% going to the City of Tulsa. George McFarlin pointed to corroborating information on his property tax statement. While it's true that the city can't use property taxes for operating expenses, the city has a millage, which feeds a sinking fund, which pays for legal judgments against the city and for debt service on our general obligation bond issues. Each year the county excise board looks at the city's sinking fund obligations and calculates the millage required, based on the valuation of all the taxable property in the city limits, to meet that obligation.

George and I will be on Talk Radio 1170 KFAQ on Wednesda, March 9, 2016, with Pat Campbell and Eddie Huff to discuss Vision Tulsa and No More Dam Taxes. If you don't have an AM radio handy, listen live online.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 8, 2016 11:28 AM.

Vision Tulsa squeezes out "Third Penny" for streets; Dollars for dams instead was the previous entry in this blog.

Regalado plays La Raza card is the next entry in this blog.

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