Some Question Sonics Incentive Plan

Friday, April 18th 2008, 6:39 pm
By: News On 6

A tax incentive package was part of a final push to lure the SuperSonics to Oklahoma.  It was signed into law by Governor Brad Henry on Thursday.

The News On 6's Chris Wright reports some say this incentive package is highway robbery.  Others believe it will benefit all Oklahomans.  It all depends on who you ask.

After Friday's decision by NBA owners, the SuperSonics move to Oklahoma City is not a matter of if, but when.

As part of the deal, the team will receive a rebate on a portion of its payroll taxes, an estimated $4 million a year.

Supporters of the incentives say the ends more than justify the means.

"It makes people start paying attention to Oklahoma a little more as a major force in urban areas, both in Oklahoma City and Tulsa," said Sheila Curley of the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce.

But those who voted against it believe the Sonics owners are already benefitting from the move, and don't need any more millions.

"Well I look at it as Robin Hood in reverse, we're robbing from the poor and giving to the rich," said Republican Senator Randy Brogdon.

The chamber of commerce counters that incentives won't cost taxpayers any more money.

Officials say the team will get a rebate on money it is generating, not funds that would have gone to road improvements or other projects.

"It's not even in existence right now.  It's no money that's even out there, that would be taken away from another location to be given to them," said Curley.

Regardless, Senator Brogdon contends that all tax money generated by the team should go the state's general fund, so Oklahoma can profit from its new NBA team.

"This is the epitome of just taking money from someone and spending it on purposes that have nothing to do with good public policy," said Brogdon.

The SuperSonics are expected to create about 170 new jobs.

Senator Brogdon says the tax incentives actually violate the Oklahoma Constitution, and he expects there will be eventually be a lawsuit over the plan.