Monday, December 07, 2009

The never ending temporary tax?

In 1993, my northern neighbors in OKC voted to add one cent to their sales tax to fund something called MAPS. This tax was sold as temporary and the revenues were used to (among other things) help get the Ford Center (where my beloved Thunder play) built. The tax expired in 2001, but was replaced by an equivalent tax to fund "MAPS for kids" which spent money on school renovations or new school construction. When that tax expired, an extension was sold the the OKC-ites to help get the Seattle Supersonics to come to OKC by funding renovations of the Ford Center.

Now THAT tax is set to expire and sure enough, voters are being asked tomorrow to approve yet another extension for "MAPS 3", which is supposed to last for 9 years, and to fund a laundry list of projects such as:

  • A new, approximately 70-acre central park linking the core of downtown with the Oklahoma River. The park would include a restaurant, lake, amphitheater, dog park, skating rink and other amenities. ($130 million)
  • A new rail-based streetcar system of 5 to 6 miles downtown, a downtown transit hub to link streetcar, commuter rail and bus systems, and possibly increased funding for the building of commuter rail lines. ($130 million)
  • A new downtown convention center on the south edge of downtown near the proposed park. ($280 million)
  • Sidewalks to be placed on major streets and near facilities used by the public throughout the city. ($10 million)
  • 57 miles of new public bicycling and walking trails throughout the City. ($40 million)
  • Improvements to the Oklahoma River, including a public whitewater kayaking facility and upgrades intended to achieve the finest rowing racecourse in the world. ($60 million)
  • State-of-the-art health and wellness aquatic centers throughout the city designed for senior citizens. ($50 million)
  • Improvements to the State Fair Park public buildings, meeting halls and exhibit spaces. ($60 million)
  • Contingency funds to cover unforeseen costs ($17 million)
While all of this stuff surely is awesome, (can you imagine how nice of trails those would be at a price tag of $701,754.39 per mile?) I wonder if my northern neighbors are getting tired of this 17 year long temporary tax? At least some folks are against it and they have put their case up on the interwebs here.

So maybe in a few years I can take a streetcar to the senior aquatic center and then walk a luxury trail down to the Oklahoma "river" to see some white water kayaking! And after that, who knows? Maybe MAPS 4 could build a ski resort in south OKC!


Norman said...

They've been running commercials this past week saying "economists at OU and OSU say now is the perfect time for this" or something really close to that. I've been wondering who they talked to in the department who said "Sure, the trailing edge of the worst recession since 1982 or even the Great Depression is BEST POSSIBLE time to extend your sales tax increase!"

Melanie Ball said...

It could be worse.

Municipalities (such as Guilford County NC) pass bonds for projects such as these without an accompanying tax increase. In fact, while voters are more than happy to approve these bonds, they strike down any attempt at increasing sales taxes to merely pay the debt service on the bonds!

Talk about bass ackwards. At least with OKC, it seems the municipality set up the projects with accompanying tax increases, so that voters must approve the spending and taxing simultaneously.