Tulsa City Councilors are lining up projects costing tens of millions of dollars as they prepare to sell a sales tax increase to voters.
The elected officials want to convince voters to say yes next April to the multi-million-dollar sales tax hike.
They think the tax will bring in at least a billion dollars but their wish list could be well over $2,500,000,000.00
Councilor Blake Ewing, who owns businesses Downtown, wants at least $25,000,000.00 in new sales tax for a transit hub Downtown. He wants Tulsa to have a mass transit system that directs everyone downtown.
His plan calls for the use of existing railroad tracks in Downtown. Ewing eventually wants his projects to have at least $175,000,000.00 in increased taxation to benefit Downtown.
He wants to “reshape” how Tulsans look at Downtown.
In the past 12 years, Tulsans and county residents have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into developing Downtown Tulsa through the Vision 2025 county sales tax, which expires in 2017.
Ewing also claims that developing Downtown would have an impact on the city’s hotel tax, which goes mostly to support the Tulsa Regional Chamber, a private group that is charged with promoting Tulsa.
Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett and the nine city councilors want to immediately replace that expiring sales tax with a city sales tax increase of .6 percent that will raise tens of millions each year.
That plan has to be voted on by the citizens for the sales tax increase to take effect.
Ewing has called Downtown the “economic engine” of Tulsa. He claims that pouring money into its development will help all parts of Tulsa who don’t get their projects funded.
Ewing dismisses criticism that Tulsa has high taxation and spends too much money in one part of the city.
Ewing said he wants visitors to see the Downtown museums, the Brady Arts District and the Blue Dome District first when they step off of municipally underwritten passenger trains.
Bartlett wants to use the tax increase for funding for policemen and firefighters.
Councilor Jack Henderson wants funds to develop some undeveloped privately-owned land near Gilcrease Expressway and Mohawk Boulevard near 36th Street North in North Tulsa. He estimates around $18,000,000.00 would be needed.
Bartlett wants money to move a railroad yard near an industrial area next to Downtown. The Mayor also wants more money for the Tulsa Airport Authority.
Councilor David Patrick wants $60,000,000.00 in new sales tax to assist private development around the Tulsa International Airport.
In 2003, county voters approved Vision 2025 – a one-cent increase in sales tax – with the promise that Boeing would build a plant here should that aerospace company get .4 percent of the new tax. The tax passed and Boeing didn’t come, forcing officials to reduce the tax to .6 percent.
Officials borrowed tens of millions of dollars with county money for municipal projects, including the downtown arena, which went more than $25,000,000.00 over budget. That budget overrun was repaid from tax dollars after the Vision 2025 sales tax started to produce surplus funds.
City, county and chamber officials also promised in 2003 that Vision 2025 was a “temporary tax” and that the tax would end in 2017. Most of those officials are no longer in office.