Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Candidates Stick by Their Campaign Promises. for Now

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Candidates Stick by Their Campaign Promises. for Now

Article excerpt

Despite declining revenues, candidates in the Aug. 27 gubernatorial primary are sticking by their campaign promises of increased spending for education -- at least for now.

For the most part, they also are staying with tax cut and tax reform programs espoused during the primary campaign.

Last week, the Office of State Finance reported a 14.9 percent drop in tax collections in July, when compared with the same month a year ago.

Some candidates said much of the $50 million decline was linked to late income tax refunds and, therefore, a trend has not been established.

All candidates in the race have advocated education increases, specifically higher teacher salaries. They said nothing has happened so far to cause them to ditch those proposals.

Steve Largent, the heavy favorite in a three-candidate Republican primary, said the tight revenue picture increased the need for "a hard-throttle governor" at the controls of the Oklahoma economy.

The former congressman from Tulsa repeated his call for performance audits of all state agencies to eliminate waste.

"This is the time to do it, when the economy is floundering," he said.

Democrat Vince Orza, the restaurant chain owner who often touts his business expertise, said he wants to know more about why state revenues are down "so we can target in on a solution."

Orza said he saw nothing yet to cause him to abandon his proposals for increased teacher salaries and tax reform.

State Sen. Brad Henry, D-Shawnee, also said it was too early to alter his proposals. "One month does not establish a trend," he said.

Henry did say that if revenues continue to fall in the months ahead, it might delay his plan to exempt retired citizens from state income taxes.

He said the tight budget outlook should give impetus to his proposal for a state lottery to generate revenue for education.

State Sen. Kelly Haney, D-Seminole, said a downturn was not a surprise, based on experiences in other states.

"I'd say we'll have to wait another month to see what the revenue situation looks like," said Haney, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. …

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