Oklahoma Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, last week asked Attorney General Scott Pruitt to determine if the $750 million Vision2 proposal going to Tulsa County voters in November violates the state constitution.
Ritze said he wants to know if county commissioners, who adopted the election ordinance Aug. 13, can propose a tax extension that will not be levied until they are out of office. Tulsa County voters are being asked to extend a 0.6% sales tax, set to expire in 2017, through 2027.
The new Vision2 plan devotes $386.9 million to economic development, including $254 million for aircraft maintenance facilities and equipment at Tulsa International Airport.
Tulsa County and its 10 cities, including Tulsa and Broken Arrow, would share $361.9 million of capital improvement funding, distributed by population.
The state constitution does not allow lawmakers at one legislative session to require spending by future Legislatures, Ritze said, and he wants Pruitt to determine if local officials are bound by the provision as well. An opinion from the attorney general now could avoid legal challenges to the tax later, he said.
Commissioner John Smalgio said the decision on the extension will be made by the voters, not by county officials. The election was called to give voters the opportunity to invest in the future, he said.
Tulsa City Councilor Blake Ewing criticized the tax extension at a conference in Oklahoma City last week. He said too many unrelated projects are being included in the program that should instead focus on economic development.
“I feel the folks behind this are taking advantage of the possibility of Tulsa losing aerospace jobs, and are using that to include a lot of things that have nothing to do with airport jobs,” Ewing said.
“I think Vision2 is poorly conceived,” he said. “I think we’re being asked to take people’s word on too many things.”