The Tulsa World asked the candidates running for governor in the primary election a set of questions.
This is the first question in our series. Read all the questions and answers at the Tulsa World's home for all of its election coverage: tulsaworld.com/election2018.
The question: Would you have signed HB 1010XX? Do you support the referendum petition to repeal House Bill 1010XX?
Answers by the candidates in alphabetical order by party affiliation:
Chris Barnett: No. HB 1010XX was a short-term Band-Aid for a long-term problem. I believe there is a better solution to give our teachers the much-needed and deserved raise. Yes (on the repeal effort). Education will continue to need additional funding to make it the best possible.
Mick Cornett: Teachers deserve a raise, and we desperately need to improve and invest in education. I’m glad the package was signed and teachers are getting a raise. It’s an important first step for improving the educational standards in our state.
I believe repealing the teacher pay raise would only increase the chaos state government is in right now. I’m glad teachers are getting a raise. State government needs to start doing what it says it is going to do, and that starts with the teacher pay raise.
Dan Fisher: No. As a former public school teacher, I understand the frustrations and challenges our teachers face, and I have no problem with giving raises where they are deserved. But I do not believe our Legislature should have passed the highest tax hike in state history to address the problem. There were many other options such as cutting government spending on non-core functions or tapping the land management fund that was created to fund education in the first place.
I do support (the repeal effort). I am always in favor of the citizens expressing their opinion — that’s what a republic is all about. Passing the highest tax hike in state history was not the answer to education funding. When the citizens of Oklahoma passed State Question 640, they were sending the strong message that they wanted it to be very difficult for our Legislature to raise taxes. Even though the Legislature was able to cobble together the necessary votes to pass HB 1010XX, the citizens should have the final say in a tax hike of this size.
Eric Foutch: Yes, even though I do not agree with the increased tax on fuels and tobacco. I would have signed it because the increase in the gross production tax is way past due, and it provides our teachers their first raise in a decade.
Absolutely do not support the petition (to repeal HB 1010xx). This bill went through our Republican-controlled House and Senate with the required 75 percent threshold, then it was signed by our Republican governor. Now Republicans want to take it away? This does not make our party look good at all.
Barry Gowdy: Yes, I would have signed it with line-veto on the stipulations. The teachers asked for a raise, not a half a raise. No, I do not support the referendum petition. HB1010XX needs work, but it’s a start. Yes, it may have to be repealed and start all over, but that will be up to the governor and legislators.
Gary Jones: Yes, it was my plan I proposed to Republicans and Democrats. No I do not support the repeal. It was necessary to give teachers a raise and needs to remain.
Todd Lamb: No. I oppose the tax increases contained in HB 1010XX, and I would have vetoed the revenue-raising bill. I have continually advocated for budget reforms of zero-based budgeting and a thorough examination of Oklahoma’s tax credits and tax exemptions. Especially with a rebounding economy, I believe a diligent effort in looking for waste, fraud and abuse would have found enough resources to provide teachers with their needed pay raise.
I do not support a repeal. This should not be misconstrued — I do not support the tax increases and believe a thorough examination of spending could have yielded more than enough for additional teacher pay. Not only have promises been made to teachers, but the state is obligated to the approved budget, and we cannot repeal that spending. The Legislature and governor put the state in a position where repeal could have dire consequences. The Legislature missed its opportunity this fiscal year to root out waste, fraud and abuse leaving Oklahomans with less-than-ideal options.
Gary Richardson: I would not have signed 1010XX because I believe we have more than enough money to pay for teacher raises without increasing taxes. My plan to accomplish that, which clearly lays out where we can cut waste, is detailed in my Kitchen Table Plan on my website. Additionally, as Attorney General Mike Hunter made very clear, teacher pay raises are not contingent upon this tax hike.
I support the petition because I know we can fund teacher pay raises without raising taxes. I have the concrete data showing my plan will give raises by reprioritizing the money we already have. The tax hike is unnecessary and unjustified when it is abundantly obvious our leaders are mismanaging the money they already have. Teachers deserve a pay increase, but if we can fund raises without raising taxes, we should.
Blake Cowboy Stephens: Yes (on signing the bill). I do not (support the repeal effort). We are already in an education crisis in Oklahoma. We have lost educators at alarming rates to either other states or leaving the profession altogether. If HB 1010xx is repealed by our citizens, I predict we will see the largest mass exodus of educators out of this state that we’ve seen yet and we would replace them with non-certified personnel. Educators in our state have gone far too long without any significant increase, and I know we can do better than 49th in the nation in teacher pay. Educators have been more than patient with our legislators.
Kevin Stitt: As the next governor, I am not for new taxes. I believe we need to deliver accountability and transparency with our state’s $22 billion budget first. Should the referendum make it to the ballot, I will vote as a citizen for Oklahoma to look forward and not backward. We need to pay our teachers a competitive wage, and I will work to bring wholesale government reform so that hardworking Oklahomans are not burdened with high taxes due to our state’s fiscal mismanagement.
Drew Edmondson: Yes (on signing the bill). No (on the repeal effort), because I support HB 1010XX and do not wish to see it repealed.
Connie Johnson: Not having been privy to citizen comments to the governor's office — historic bipartisan participation in achieving the first-ever required super majority threshold suggests and supports my belief that constituents had a positive response to the Legislature's solution — I would have signed the bill. Had there been overwhelming discontent with the bill, however, because the solution only partially addressed the people's request, I would have supported the people, vetoed it, and sent the following message to the Legislature: Go back to the negotiating table. Seek out and factor in all potential revenue sources to adequately fund education, not just a teacher pay raise, in order to stop Oklahoma teacher's exiting for $19,000/year pay increases.
This 1010XX Referendum would rip the temporary bandage off before the healing has begun, re-exposing a gaping wound that is bleeding off our best and brightest to places other than Oklahoma. The Referendum’s promised panacea of low taxes, great education and great teachers who are worthy of their hire begs the question: In what world? Certainly not in the real world, and especially not in Oklahoma where a continually deteriorating tax base, reinforced by measures like SQ 640, and legislative priorities that do not put the people's interests first have led to our ranking last in every measure of the public's health and safety.
Rex Lawhorn: I would not have signed 1010XX. I would have had a plan in place to meet the union's demands without the tax increases before 1010XX ever became a floor debate. The inefficiencies in the current system add up to over $1.4 billion, an issue that should have been addressed long before the crisis arose. Further, 1010XX was an election year 'Hail Mary' that offered no long-term solutions and just sought to bolster support for incumbents. Real solutions require real reform, not single-session platitudes.
Yes, I support the Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite referendum and have signed the pledge. The money to fund the classrooms is in the system, but the funding formulas and bureaucratic overhead are eating up too much of it before it ever hits the school budgets. In addition, the revenue sources are so pipelined that schools don't have the flexibility to dedicate their resources where they're most needed — in the classroom. The real effects of 1010XX were to place an additional burden on the working class and the poor, who will most keenly feel the effects of the fuel and tobacco taxes. There was nothing positive about the mechanics of the bill, and so much better solutions were available.
Joe "Exotic" Maldonado: I would not have signed it. If they wouldn’t have passed this bill, the teachers would have had more leverage to continue their protest and gain more concessions from the legislator.
No; though I have no doubt that the intentions behind this legislation are pure, I cannot support a referendum by nothing more than another big-money special interest.
Chris Powell: Equalization of the tax on gas and diesel was positive, as was moving the gross production tax toward a more equitable situation. However, as governor, I would have been insistent on spending prioritization in other areas, such as elimination of some of the many incentives reviewed by the Incentive Evaluation Commission. Had the Legislature delivered a bill that did not include reductions in spending to allow for a refocus of funds on core services, such as education, I would have considered a veto.
I would prefer that the Legislature be told to try again to prioritize spending. However, in my estimation the public has no appetite for revisiting the tax increase and would, just as happened in 1991 with the attempt to repeal HB1017 by constitutional amendment, vote against the initiative. It is also the case that opposition to the referendum would be used to rally support for candidates who wish to raise taxes. I am very concerned that if there is a vote to repeal 1010XX on the November ballot that it will increase the likelihood of additional tax increases in the 2019 legislative session as well as possibly another attempt to water down the three-fourths requirement for tax hikes.
The next question we asked governor candidates: Even if pay raises associated with HB 1010XX go into effect, schools say they don’t have the money to add new positions, reduce class sizes and restore courses and programs cut over the past decade. What is your response?