The Norman Transcript

Local news

April 18, 2008

NEW: Collins says Sonics incentive vote may help push light rail

<br><b>Local representatives voting in favor of the incentives for the SuperSonics this week were Wallace Collins, Scott Martin and Bill Nations. Opposing the measure were Randy Terrill, Paul Wesselhoft. State Sen. Jonathan Nichols voted yes and State Sen. John Sparks opposed the bill.</b>

State Rep. Wallace Collins says the legislature's vote giving special tax incentives to the owners of an NBA franchise may indirectly help promote light rail in central Oklahoma.

The Norman Democrat voted in favor of the bill which passed the House 67-32 Thursday. Senators approved it Tuesday and Gov. Brad Henry quickly signed the bill.

Collins, speaking to a Norman Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast Friday, said he was able to raise the issue of light rail with the owners of the Seattle SuperSonics. He said they seemed interested in promoting rail using existing lines and stations.

"I hope it struck a chord with them. I think it did," Collins said, noting passengers could ride from Norman to Bricktown for sporting events and passengers could come to Norman for sporting and cultural events."

Collins said it makes sense to use the existing resources like the Union Station and the track between the Will Rogers World Airport and

The rebate would be about $4 million a year and $60 million over its 15-year life. Normally not a fan of what critics call, "corporate welfare," Collins defended his vote Thursday. He said it was a benefit for a narrow cause but the spinoffs down the line will help central Oklahoma.

"It probably is corporate welfare," he said. "I think it would help Norman. I think it would help all of central Oklahoma."

State Rep. Bill Nations, D-Norman, said he voted in favor of the bill because if the Sonics move to Oklahoma, it will be a much larger net gain in tax revenues for the state. If they don't come, nothing is lost, he told chamber members and guests Friday.

On other legislative matters, Collins said he was satisfied the bill putting defibrillators in public schools finally got a hearing and was passed after his name was removed from authorship.

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