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Oklahoma senate passes Quality Jobs expansion designed to encourage Sonics' relocation

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The State Senate passed legislation today intended to encourage the National Basketball Association's Board of Governors to relocate the Sonics franchise to Oklahoma City.

Now headed for the House of Representatives and Gov. Brad Henry, the senate passed Senate Bill 1819 "?authored by Senate Co-President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee and House Speaker Chris Benge --  to "tweak" the Quality Jobs Act which would rebate a portion of the employees' income taxes to the state  to qualified employers.

The15-year incentive would provide rebates of about $60 million in tax rebates to an NBA team.

"Bringing a NBA franchise to Oklahoma is a slam dunk, like getting a major corporation to locate its headquarters here. If a NBA team relocates to Oklahoma, we will be one of only 22 states with a team. It will help raise Oklahoma's profile nationally and across the world," Coffee (R-Oklahoma City) said in a statement. "This legislation paves the way for the NBA to come to Oklahoma. The state budget won't be impacted because the rebates provided for in this bill would come from funds that the state won't receive at all if the NBA doesn't locate a team here."

Monday, a state representative issued a statement criticizing the measure. Rep. Brian Renegar (D, McAlester) said that he felt the legislators should be concerned about a state employee pay raise instead.

"State employees have only had two pay raises in the past seven years. Costs of living are skyrocketing for these dedicated public servants and the entire legislature seems to say 'there isn't enough money.'  I say there's not enough money because of corporate welfare such as this," Renegar said in a statement.  "I'm extremely disappointed that we decided to give big corporations and multi-millionaires a tax break today instead of helping working Oklahomans. We found out this week that this team's ownership spent almost $400,000 to fund an ad campaign in Oklahoma City that granted them $120 million in tax money to relocate."  - Gazette staff

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