Chamber – biggest financial backer of $884,100,000.00 Tax hike

Who is paying for the slick media campaign to raise $884,100,000.00 in new sales taxes April 5?

According to a report, the largest contributor to selling the tax increase is the Tulsa Chamber. The chamber gets the bulk of Tulsa’s hotel tax – millions of dollars each year. In the past, chamber officials have claimed they do not use that tax money to promote passage of new taxes.

The campaign has raised more than $710,000.00 from February 22 to March 22. By law, the group does not have to reveal its finances. And unlike contributions to candidates, there are no limits on contributions to these kinds of advocacy groups.

A subgroup of the chamber, “Tulsa’s Future,” was the biggest donor.  Almost all of the donations are from individuals or companies with ties to the chamber and who could benefit from the passage of the three propositions on April 5.

The police union donated $100,000.00 with the hope for passage of Proposition I. That would finance hiring of more police officers.

Bank of Oklahoma, part of the George Kaiser empire, gave and could bid on bonds for the projects in Proposition 3.

Howard Barnett, president of OSU-Tulsa, donated. The University Center at Tulsa Authority/OSU Tulsa gets $3,600,000.00 if Proposition 3 passes.

The advertising for a yes vote claims this is not a “new tax.”

The University of Tulsa donated $100,000.00, probably with the hope that Proposition 3 would pass. That part of the tax increases gives $65,000,000.00 to Gilcrease Museum, which is owned by Tulsa but operated by TU. TU officials said they had an obligation to educate the public on the city sales tax increase.

According to the Gilcrease Museum website, spending $115,000,000.00 will bring “500 visitors” to Tulsa each year. Last week, proponents said that an additional $50,000,000.00 in private funding will be raised to go with the $65,000,000.00 in higher sales tax for Gilcrease. Proposition 3 includes $25,000,000.00 in sales tax revenue for the Tulsa Zoo. Again, the zoo is owned by the City of Tulsa but it is operated by Tulsa Zoo Management, Inc.

Tulsa County passed a countywide sales tax of .6-percent to pay for a downtown arena and other projects. That temporary tax expires January 1. The reason a vote is required is because this is a new city tax increase and not a temporary county tax.

And unlike the 2003 county sales tax increase ballot, the April 5 City of Tulsa ballot does not elaborate on how the money will be spent – especially in Proposition 3 with simply lists “economic development projects.”

Another problem is Tulsa’s declining sales tax revenues.

“Our economy is in a crunch right now,” said Ronda Vuillemont-Smith, president of the Tulsa 912 Project. “We have large companies possibly moving employees to business-friendly Texas and possible layoffs for others. The City of Tulsa sales tax revenues came in 8 percent under projection in January (including Christmas sales) and 10 percent under in February. What happens if sales tax continues to decline and Tulsa can’t make bond payments? The city has a hiring freeze in place and now they are asking us to take on additional responsibilities that have nothing to do with the core functions of government. Is this the right time to extend taxes on our citizens? I say, let’s give ’em a break.”

The new tax includes $272 million for the police and fire department and $102 million for street maintenance.

‘Citizens for Tulsa’ Yes Vote Financial Report

$321,622.00 Tulsa’s Future III
$271,622.00 Tulsa’s Future III
$161,622.00 Tulsa’s Future III
$100,000.00 University of Tulsa
$100,000.00 Fraternal Order of Police
$25,000.00 Crossland Construction
$15,000.00 Jim Norton Toyota
$10,000.00 Bank of Oklahoma
$10,000.00 Bama Pie Company
$10,000.00 HollyFrontier
$7,500.00 PSO
$7,500.00 Pelco Structural, LLC
$7,500.00 Advance Research Chemicals, Inc.
$5,000.00 Howard Barnett, president OSU-Tulsa
$5,000.00 Sherwood Construction Co. Inc.
$2,500.00 Matrix Architects
$2,500.00 Mill Creek LLC
$2,500.00 Cameron & Associates
$2,500.00 Cyntergy
$1,500.00 GH2 Architects
$200.00 Chris Benge, Oklahoma Secretary of State
$110,000.00 ROI Media Services (Radio and TV ads)
$98,320.00 ROI Media Services (Radio and TV ads)
$20,000.00 AH Strategies (Consulting)
$15,000.00 Majority Designs (Advertising)
$14,495.00 Oldham’s Sign Shop (Printing)
$14,320.00 Propeller Communications (Consulting)
$10,000.00 Six PR (Consulting)
$9,595.00 Walsh Branding (Consulting)
$7,000.00 Waller PR (Consulting)
$1,921.00 Majority Designs (Printing)