State leaders won't give up on Phillips

Friday, November 23rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ State leaders aren't giving up on trying to entice the newly merged ConocoPhillips to make its home north of the Red River.

The headquarters of the third-largest oil company in the United States, created when Phillips Petroleum Co. of Bartlesville merged with Conoco Inc. on Sunday, is planned for Houston.

But Gov. Frank Keating and other state officials aren't ready to say goodbye.

The governor, who met with Phillips and Conoco officials, said Wednesday that the state should eliminate its personal income tax to persuade the new company to change its Texas plan.

``That would send a clear and powerful message to ConocoPhillips and others that Oklahoma means business when it comes to business,'' he said.

Sen. Glenn Coffee, a freshman Republican from Oklahoma City, made a similar suggestion on Tuesday. He urged the Legislature to reconvene a special session and repeal the state income tax.

State House Republican leader Fred Morgan of Oklahoma City said Republicans hope to generate bipartisan support for a revenue-neutral tax reform package that would eliminate the personal income tax, the franchise tax and the state's portion of the tax on groceries. The plan would make Oklahoma a ``pickup'' state by picking up a federal estate tax credit to replace the Oklahoma estate tax.

The loss of those tax revenues would be offset by the expansion of the sales tax, Morgan said.

He said the proposal will be presented to legislators in the next two weeks.

Senate President Pro Tem Stratton Taylor, D-Claremore, who made the first proposal for an overhaul of the state's tax system last spring, said he's all for exploring anything to prevent job loses and a negative economic impact on Oklahoma. But Taylor said legislative leaders want a proposal in writing and a consensus before they consider it in a special session as Coffee suggested.

Another state lawmaker said he has doubts about how important income taxes were in the ConocoPhillips decision.

``I think we should sit down, face-to-face, with representatives of these two oil companies and find out first-hand why they intend to leave our state, and what, if anything, we could do to keep them here,'' said Rep. Kenneth Corn, D-Howe.

A Phillips spokesman said this week he would not comment on whether an income tax repeal would have any effect on plans to locate in Houston.

Both companies have long-standing Oklahoma ties.

Phillips Petroleum Co. was founded in Oklahoma in 1917. Conoco absorbed Marland Oil Co., which was founded by former Oklahoma Gov. E.W. Marland, who built a refinery in Ponca City in 1918.

About 2,400 employees work for Phillips in Bartlesville.

There are about 2,000 Conoco employees in Ponca City. About 400 work in the refinery or in support of refinery activity. Other employees work in the operations' end of Conoco's Continental business unit.