GOP activist says Vision2 'can't save' American Airlines, should be defeated
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Saturday, October 20, 2012
10/20/12 at 5:37 AM
Learn more about the $748.8 million, 13-year plan to extend Tulsa County’s 0.6 percent Vision 2025 sales tax.
Tulsa County's Vision2 proposals won't save American Airlines, a leading opponent of the proposal said Friday.
"When government picks winners and losers, they usually just pick losers," blogger and Republican Party activist Michael Bates told the Republican Club of Tulsa.
American Airlines is in bankruptcy - largely driven by high labor costs - and nothing the taxpayers of Tulsa County do will have any effect on the company's fate, he said.
"It's like trying to put out the sun with a squirt gun," Bates said.
"We can't save them," he said. "It simply doesn't make sense to throw money against a bankrupt airline."
If Tulsa County taxpayers buy into the Vision2 plan to spend $214 million to improve American's Tulsa maintenance base and the airline evaporates anyway, Bates suggested that an expensive engine test cell that is part of the plan would be a monument to false hopes in a company wrongly believed to be too big to fail.
In addition to improvements to city-owned manufacturing facilities at the airport industrial complex, the $748.8 million Vision2 program would fund "quality-of-life" improvements throughout Tulsa County. The spending would be funded by a 13-year, 0.6 percent Tulsa County sales tax. The tax would begin when the 0.6 percent Vision 2025 tax expires at the end of 2016.
The Vision2 proposal has divided Republicans.
The same group heard a speech pushing the tax package from Vision2 Co-Chairman Don Walker last month.
The Vision2 co-chairmen - Walker, Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett and County Commissioner John Smaligo - are all Republicans, but the Tulsa County Republican Party county committee has voted to oppose the proposal.
The county committee also voted in August to censure Smaligo and County Commissioner Fred Perry, who is also a Republican, for their vote to put the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot. Bates was the author of the censure measure.
With Perry and Smaligo in the audience, Bates again called out Republicans for supporting the Vision2 proposal.
The proposals amount to corporate welfare, pork-barrel spending, crony capitalism and increased public debt - all violations of Republican tenets, Bates said.
He criticized the Vision2 plan to create a job-closing fund, which he suggested would be controlled by the Tulsa Metro Chamber.
Pointing to the chamber's contract with the city to use its hotel-motel tax to promote tourism, Bates said he thinks the closing fund - which is projected to end up with at least $52.9 million over the course of the tax - could end up being another source of public funding for a group that should be funded solely with private money.
Several projects targeted for Tulsa's share of the quality-of-life money also drew criticism in the speech.
Vision2 funding for local state colleges and universities was poorly thought out, and money set aside for the Tulsa City-County Library System "just doesn't make sense" because of the library's large reserve fund, he said.
The largest share of Tulsa's proposed use of the quality-of-life money would be for dams along the Arkansas River, which Bates said don't match the city's real needs.
Tulsans are more worried about the conditions of city streets and crime, he said.
"I don't think water in the river is the priority right now," he said.
Election date: Nov. 6
Amount: $748.8 million
Tax impact: Extension of 0.6 percent Vision 2025 sales tax from 2017 through 2029
PROPOSITION 1: ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Airport industrial complex buildings and infrastructure: $122 million
Airport industrial complex equipment: $132 million
Closing fund: $52.942 million
Bond costs and interest: $79.938 million
PROPOSITION 2: QUALITY-OF-LIFE IMPROVEMENTS
Tulsa County: $92 million
Tulsa: $157.92 million
Bixby: $11.3 million
Broken Arrow: $44.1 million
Collinsville: $3 million
Glenpool: $5.9 million
Jenks: $9.2 million
Owasso: $14.38 million
Sand Springs: $10.1 million
Skiatook: $1.16 million
Bond costs and interest: $12 million
Original Print Headline: Critic: Vision2 'can't save' airline
Wayne Greene 918-581-8308
Republican Party activist Michael Bates tells the Republican Club of Tulsa at the Summit Club on Friday that they should oppose both Vision2 propositions. CHRISTOPHER SMITH/Tulsa World