In an exclusive interview with Tulsa Today, Former City Councilor and owner of Christiansen Aviation, Bill Christiansen suggests, “there is a way to provide [Tulsa International] Airport improvements without increasing taxes one bit.”
“The Tulsa Airport Improvement Trust (TAIT) is a Title 60 trust [organized as such] so it can borrow money for airport improvements as needed. TAIT can secure a revenue bond then increase rental fees for American Airlines usage of these publicly owned facilities to cover the debt service and repayment of that bond,” Christiansen said.
“It the big picture, American Airlines would get the infrastructure improvements they need to accommodate newer larger planes and keep jobs in Tulsa without over-burdening the citizens of the City or the County with additional tax,” Christiansen (pictured below) added.
It has been the most un-secret question in Tulsa history: How can Tulsa help American Airlines? Bankruptcy has rocked the company after years of simmering union vs. management disputes and current financial challenges industry wide. What can we do to help? What should we not do? What can we afford to do? The Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce has a plan (increase Tulsa County tax rates) and every official that discusses an idea is claimed by the daily newspaper to have another plan, but all focus on raising taxes.
In general discussion, Christiansen talked about how, at his Jenks Riverside Airport facility, potential or existing clients might ask for capital improvements and, as an owner, he is happy to provide them, but there is a cost in construction and debt service that they must be willing to pay over time by an increase in regular rental fees. All public officials should know this, Christiansen suggested.
Maybe officials know and maybe they are talking about it, but it doesn’t seem to have been included in legacy media stories to date.
In multiple top of the front page screaming headlines over the last week the daily newspaper has focused exclusively on raising taxes for airport improvements. One would suggest that years after their questionable involvement with the expensive public debacle known as Great Plains Airlines, editors would be aware of TAIT’s ability to fund improvements without a public tax increase.
Tax critics are not quoted. There is no mention of the current debt crisis of the United States of America or worldwide financial crisis in Greece, Spain, France and others that may force the collapse of the Euro as a valid currency and threaten the stability of the U.S. Dollar as the world’s reserve currency – not in local stories.
There is no mention of the public’s “taxed enough already” attitude as demonstrated in multiple public rallies and ongoing efforts to elect Conservative statesmen on the promise of, “no new taxes.”
The Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce is also pushing for an $80 million “deal-closing fund” or what critics have called for decades – a slush fund – to pay businesses to locate within the greater economic zone of Tulsa. Granted; many state and local governments have such funds and some are successful and some are not. But beyond the propriety of “buying business” the question becomes why officials keep talking about these two separate and distinct economic efforts at the same time?
Christiansen said, “I don’t believe on one ballot issue you can ask voters to fund both an infrastructure directed jobs package, in whatever form it may take, and also in the same ballot issue ask for approval of an incentive fund or deal closing fund to be doled out for business incentives.”
“I was on the Vision 2025 Leadership Team and legal counsel at the time warned about what is called log-rolling or placing unrelated issues as one ballot question. That’s illegal,” Christiansen added.