The Edmond Sun

June 18, 2014

Shannon, Lankford differ on how to climb out of debt

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

OKLA. CITY — U.S. Senate candidate T.W. Shannon would abolish the Environmental Protection Agency as a way to lower the $17.5 trillion national debt, he said.

Shannon, 36, is one of seven Republican contenders for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn.

“The initial appropriation for one year could be about $90 billion,” said Shannon, R-Lawton. “But when you think from a business standpoint what that would do to jump start our economy, to allow the states to regulate their own environments — I think that number could be in the trillions.”

One of Shannon’s Republican opponents, Congressman James Lankford, said he questioned Shannon recently regarding Shannon’s plan to balance the federal budget this year. Shannon said he would close the EPA, the Department of Commerce and the Department of Education.

“It’s great to know the math on those. That’s about $90 billion on those three agencies,” said Lankford, chairman of the Subcommittee of the House Committee on the Budget.

Shannon said entitlement programs must be taken into account in order to balancing the federal budget. Shannon said he favors reducing federal spending by 1 percent until a balanced budget is achieved.

The Congressional Budget Office reported in April that the federal budget deficit would be $492 billion this fiscal year. The Treasury recently reported that the federal government recorded a total budget deficit of $1.4 trillion in fiscal year 2009.

“My point is we have a spending problem. We do not have a revenue problem,” Shannon said.

Shannon said he also would abolish the U.S. Department of Education to save taxpayers money. The Obama Administration is requesting $68.6 billion in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Education in 2015, an increase of $1.3 billion, or 1.9 percent, more than the 2014 level and almost $3 billion more than in 2013.

Shannon is in agreement with Lankford, who has said that education policies should be controlled locally by the states and local communities.

Abolishing the Department of Education would save a substantial amount of money exponentially within 10 years, Shannon said.

“I think I have a skill set that can hopefully turn the tide,” Shannon said.

Lankford said he is trying to get the U.S. out of debt, but it is so bad that the process cannot be achieved in a year.

“My principle all along on the debt ceiling has been: Has the debt ceiling been attached to a plan that gets us out of debt or is it keeping us in status quo or sending us backwards,” said Lankford, 46.

“I have voted no a lot more than I have voted yes,” he said. “But in the times I felt like it was getting us out of the hole and setting a path towards balance — I voted yes.”

The 2011 Budget Control Act set the course for government spending to go down for three years in a row, Lankford said.

“I think it’s a reasonable approach because no one has a plan of how to balance this in a year,” Lankford said.

Lankford said he favors the Taxpayers Right to Know Act, which would require every agency to list every program they do, complete with administrative costs for employees. Agencies would have to account for its number of employees and the number of beneficiaries they serve.

Statuary authority for the program would be mandated by the Taxpayers Right to Know, said Lankford, who introduced the bill in the House. The bill passed but did not make it through the Senate.

“It forces this laundry list out there of all these different agencies to find duplication,” Lankford said. “And not just see if they evaluate, but how they evaluate.”

Competition for efficiency is lacking between federal agencies, Lankford said.

Shannon and Lankford both agree that under no circumstances should the federal government dictate a minimum wage. States should set their own minimum wage, Shannon said.

Congress has set the minimum wage at $7.25 an hour for all of the 50 states. Almost half of the states already have a different minimum wage set than what the federal government has mandated, Shannon said.

“I think the market should drive that,” he said. “The cost of living is so different from state-to-state.”

Voters will nominate their party’s candidates during Tuesday’s statewide primary election. A runoff primary election is set for Aug. 26 if a candidate does not receive at least 50  percent of the vote. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 4.

Other Republicans running for U.S. Senate include Jason Weger, 31, of Norman; Kevin Crow, 46, of Chickasha; Eric McCray, 33, of Tulsa; former state Sen. Randy Brogdon, 60, of Owasso; and Andy Craig, 41, of Broken Arrow.

Democrats running for U.S. Senate include state Sen. Connie Johnson, 61, of Oklahoma City; Patrick Hayes, 39, of Anadarko; and Jim Rogers, 79, of Midwest City.

Independent candidate Mark Beard, 54, of Oklahoma City will be on the Nov. 4 statewide election ballot.



jcoburn@edmondsun.com | 341-2121