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Great Plains Airline Money Impacting Oklahoma Roads

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A Tulsa based airline that went under wasn't just a money pit for taxpayers, it was a pothole too. It turns out the state tax money that went into Great Plains Airlines, is now coming out of the budget for fixing roads and bridges.

News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan explains how.

When Great Plains took off it was to the cheers of all the politicians who helped create it. They had the vision that Great Plains would finally link Tulsa and the coast with non-stop air service. The reality - now five years later - is that Great Plains greatest impact might be on Oklahoma's roads.

The $27-million the state lost on Great Plains is slowly coming out of the budget for repairing roads and bridges. Here's how it happened. The legislature created tax credits to help start Great Plains Airlines. The airline sold the tax credits to companies which used to reduce what they owed for state taxes - so what would have been tax money went to the airline instead of the state budget.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation gets its money from that budget - but to make up for the loss to Great Plains - the state essentially cut ODOT's budget. If the airline had succeeded, it would have repaid ODOT with more tax credits for creating jobs. Since the airline failed - those tax credits didn't materialize - so ODOT doesn't get the money.

It's ultimately the taxpayers who lose - because tax money that would have improved roads was instead wasted on a high risk venture.

And it's not just the state - Tulsa is still on the hook for a $7-million loan to Great Plains - and even taxpayers in Illinois are grumbling. They paid for improvements to the airport where Great Plains could land near St Louis, and loaned the airline a million dollars - not long before the airline closed for good.

That's the how it happened - but why it happened is because of the politicians who set it all up - both on the state and local level. There is still a $7-million debt that the city guaranteed for get the airline going. And there is plenty of legal action pending and in the works against the bankrupt airline and the people who ran it.
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