Lawmaker wants AG opinion on Vision2 questions
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Thursday, August 30, 2012
8/30/12 at 10:26 PM
A Broken Arrow lawmaker has asked Attorney General Scott Pruitt whether county commissioners can legally propose a tax extension that starts after they leave office.
In a reference to the Vision2 proposal that Tulsa County commissioners have sent to voters on Nov. 6, Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, asked Pruitt if commissioners are limited to proposing taxes that start within their own term in office.
The $748.8 million proposal to fund improvements to city-owned industrial facilities at Tulsa International Airport and quality-of-life improvements in Tulsa County and its cities would extend a 0.6 percent county sales tax from the beginning of 2017 through 2029.
When they voted on the proposal going to voters, two of the commissioners - John Smaligo and Fred Perry - had a little more than two years left in their terms in office.
Commissioner Karen Keith had only a few months left in her current term, although she won re-election to an additional four-year term when no one filed against her in the current election cycle.
Ritze said the issue was originally raised to him by Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel.
Ritze said he didn’t think the issue had ever been formally addressed and thought it needed the attorney general’s authority to avoid possible future legal problems if voters were to approve the tax.
He pointed out that one Legislature cannot legally commit future Legislatures to spend money, and he wonders whether county commissioners are similarly bound.
While Tulsa County commissioners voted to put the question before voters, the Vision2 spending commitments would be made by voters, not the commissioners.
Ritze sent two other questions concerning the Vision2 proposal to Pruitt for opinions.
One question asks whether money collected under a tax approved by voters could be used for others purposes without asking the permission of voters.
Ritze said Yazel has estimated that the Vision 2025 tax will collect some $200 million more than will be needed for its originally outlined plans. If the county could legally use that money on some of the Vision2 proposals, the county could pay for projects on an ongoing basis, without additional bond costs, he said.
County officials have said any additional Vision 2025 funding will be far less than $200 million.
Ritze also asked Pruitt if a local tax could be extended beyond the original duration approved by voters. Pruitt said he thought the county might be able to simply extend the Vision 2025 tax without putting the issue before voters again and possibly avoid bonding costs for the projects.
Ritze said he is very skeptical about the Vision2 proposal.
“I have publicly stated that I’m very concerned about the vision proposal because of the economic times that we have, and I’m learning to not support it.”
Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow