Tax extension proposal criticized

Wednesday, August 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- A Tulsa County commissioner and other area officials are critical of a proposal to fund county improvements by extending part of the county jail tax that is scheduled to expire next year. Commissioner Wilbert Collins wants to extend 2/12th cent from the temporary 5/12th cent jail tax for five years.

The revenues would fund $50 million in county capital projects for streets, parks, flood mitigations and improvements to Expo Square. That portion of the tax is set to expire Sept. 30, 2001, leaving a permanent quarter-penny sales tax for the operation of the Tulsa Jail. "All I'm asking for is one-sixth of a penny for five years to bring all of Tulsa County up to par," he said. "To make economic development real in the county, let's take care of some of the ills that's affecting the growth."

A majority of the three commissioners can put the question on the Nov. 7 ballot, although Commissioner John Selph said he does not support the proposal. "We haven't let the dirt settle on this," he said of the new jail, "and we're already asking the voters to approve the tax for something else? I have a difficult time with that."

Several area officials said they also oppose the idea of extending a temporary tax before it expires. "This was sold to us as a temporary tax, and it should be allowed to expire," said Bixby Mayor Joe Williams. "Instead, I'm hearing from all the citizens here that this is just like all taxes-- it never expires."

Tulsa Mayor Susan Savage said there is a credibility issue a stake with the voters when dealing with a temporary tax. Savage said that during the campaign for the jail tax, "I personally made the point several times to ensure the voters that... when the 2/12ths tax expired, it would go away."