Note to the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber: The top personal income tax rate is 5.25 percent in Oklahoma, not 5.5 percent. That's something a chamber of commerce would want to get right on a website touting the area's low tax burden. The mistake is included in what is otherwise a first-class website called ABetterLifeOKC.com, designed to give new residents and those considering a move here key information about amenities. Given the hoopla over hosting NBA Finals games, many are getting better acquainted with the city. Last year the website drew 11,000 visits and more than 8,000 unique visitors. The chamber also has a “Better Life” blog and an email newsletter. It says Boeing and Continental Resources were among corporations using the program to inform relocating employees about what the city has to offer. What the city doesn't offer, fortunately, is a municipal income tax.
The excitement of having the NBA Finals in Oklahoma City has affected more than one workplace as employees, amped up for the game, have been a bit distracted. Now some are concerned the Finals could impact the June 26 primary election, which would occur the same day as a potential seventh game of the series. That concern is misplaced. Polls close at 7 p.m. while the game wouldn't start until 8, and citizens can vote early. Those who are serious about voting will do so. Those who claim a game kept them away from the ballot box were never serious in the first place. Some poll workers may miss part of the game, but we have faith in their professionalism. And we're optimistic the Thunder will make this discussion moot by winning the series early.
What's in a name?
Speaking of the Thunder, some fans visiting this week have lamented that the team is the Oklahoma City Thunder instead of the Oklahoma Thunder. It's worth remembering that in April 2008, in advance of the Seattle SuperSonics moving here, the city council approved an agreement requiring Oklahoma City to be in the team name. That agreement focused primarily on how revenues from arena concessions and restaurants would be split. NBA Commissioner David Stern originally suggested the team be named after the state, not the city, to help lure fans from outside the metro. Mayor Mick Cornett and other city officials disagreed. Among them was council member Pete White, who said the name should reflect contributions by Oklahoma City taxpayers who approved sales tax increases that helped transform downtown and the arena. “Oklahoma City is the one that took the risk, primarily,” White said then. Stern's concerns wound up being for naught — the Thunder has captivated the state, drawing fans, including season-ticket holders, from across Oklahoma.
Tax plan: Weigh to go
Last time Oklahoma tried to raise the gasoline tax, it ended with a bang. Voters shot down the proposal by a wide margin. Yet extending a “temporary” tax on gas ended last week not with a bang but a whimper. Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill extending a 1-cent-per-gallon gas tax for another 10 years. The state taxes gasoline at 17 cents per gallon, of which 16 cents is an actual gas tax and the other penny a source of funding for the underground fuel storage tank program. But the fund isn't just paying for replacement of storage tanks. It's now buying new truck weigh stations at ports of entry around Oklahoma, something that was sorely needed. We don't expect much more than a whimper of protest about Fallin's OK for the gas tax extension, but the diversion of funds from their original purpose should always be weighed carefully.