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Oklahoma City 2013: Red state voters like local control of taxes in Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City is famous for taxing itself, which stands out in Oklahoma, one of the reddest states in the country.
BY MICHAEL KIMBALL Published: December 17, 2012

In maybe the reddest of red states, it's hard to ignore the sturdy base of Oklahoma City's much-lauded and ongoing renaissance: a broadly popular tax.

The apparent juxtaposition was on full display last summer, when Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett gave a modified version of his usual stump speech at the Republican National Convention in Florida. Cornett highlighted the city's investment in its infrastructure in front of an audience that spent much of the rest of the week lambasting government spending.

Cornett says the key is that Oklahoma City residents like to have localized control over their taxes.

“It's because the kind of government I think they like is the kind they have a say on,” said Cornett, adding that people don't feel that level of involvement and participation in the national political arena.

At the national and state government levels, taxes are decided by elected officials whose votes are only considered a representation of the views of their constituents. But in Oklahoma City, issues like the MAPS tax votes have presented voters with a clear plan for the use of their money, and the voters themselves choose whether they're willing to pay.

“In Oklahoma City, what we've done is allow people to determine their tax rate,” Cornett said. “When you think about it, by allowing them to vote up or down on a series of taxes over the years ... we've allowed them to determine what comfortable level of taxation they're willing to pay.”

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