What form will Tulsa's 3rd penny sale tax take?

Tuesday, January 24th 2006, 11:44 am
By: News On 6

Is it saving jobs? Or is it corporate welfare? Tulsa’s 3rd penny extension goes before voters in April, but there's some debate over a plan to give $4-million to American Airlines for some new hangars.

Supporters say Tulsa's largest employer is at stake. Critics say American should fend for itself. News on 6 reporter Steve Berg gives us their two cents worth.

It's just one part of the 3rd penny extension proposal. But it dominated the discussion at Tuesday's committee meeting. American Airlines has a critical need for new hangar space and the Mayor has proposed giving them $4-million in 3rd penny money to build them.

That didn't sit well with councilor Bill Martinson. "Y'know I'm a small business owner, I haven't come to the city looking for a free building or a dollar a year lease."

Martinson says he has concerns about corporate welfare. And at times, it got chippy.

Mayor Bill LaFortune: "We still have the need for that space, can I finish?”

Councilor Bill Martinson: "Finish, but if you're going to keep rambling."

Mayor Bill LaFortune: "I'm not rambling."

Councilor Bill Martinson: "yes you are."

Mayor Bill LaFortune: "we disagree on one point."

Many on the council appear to side with the mayor, who says if Tulsa doesn't do it, someone else will. Mayor Bill LaFortune: "And that is the reality that nobody wants to speak about is that we are every day competing with other cities for jobs and they are providing incentives for companies for jobs in particular within American's system, there are other bases that want this work."

The mayor says American is so big; it can't be looked at like other employers. And that its 8,000 jobs are just the beginning. "Another 16,000 jobs that are small-business jobs out there that survive here in Tulsa only because the American jobs are there.” But Martinson argues that if American is so big, why do they need help? "Look at it another way, $4.3-million in that case shouldn't be that much for American Airlines."

But American Airlines officials at the meeting say one way or another, they need the hangars. American Airline’s Carmine Romano: "If I can't make that happen, this work will go to some other state."

Many on the council want to make the American Airlines issue a separate question on the ballot from the rest of the 3rd penny proposal. Whatever they do, it needs to be fast. Their deadline to come up with a final ballot is February 2nd.