Group opposes planned Muskogee economic development tax


Tuesday, February 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) -- Mayor Herschel McBride said a former political opponent is opposing his half-cent sales tax proposal because he is a "sore loser" about falling short in the mayoral election last year.

But former mayoral candidate Jay Stephens said his problem with the sales tax plan is purely professional, and that a study used to develop the tax plan used flawed and improper research data.

"If you took that to a bank today, it would get laughed out of the office," Stephens said.

McBride said his sales tax proposal is well planned and would raise $2.5 million for economic development over one year, though it would be implemented over a five-year period.

The proposal goes to a vote March 6.

Stephens said he doesn't think the city has provided a detailed business plan about the proposal to taxpayers.

But McBride said five public hearings have been held to answer questions about the sales tax. He noted it would only raise Muskogee's sales tax rate to 7.5 percent, low among area communities.

"We just need some money to operate on," McBride said.

Stephens said Muskogee had a sales tax from 1990-98 and only gained about 63 people a year despite spending more than $1 million.

"That's a pretty poor response," he said.

Muskogee voters rejected a one-cent sales tax proposal in 1999.

Instead of the sales tax, Stephens wants Muskogee to join an economic plan called Main Street U.S.A., which he said has produced growth in other cities.

McBride said he has resisted the program partly because of the $40,000 to $60,000 in start-up costs.

He believes that the city itself should be in control of its own economic-development efforts.

"I think we can do (it) our own," he said. "Just because it's not Main Street doesn't mean it's not going to work."