Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce hosts candidate forum

From left, State Senate District 41 candidates Paul Blair, Adam Pugh and Jeff Tallent stand together at Friday morning's forum. The Republican primary is Tuesday.

The three Republican candidates for Senate District 41 shared their thoughts on issues facing Oklahomans as they made their best case as to why Republican voters should choose them as their candidate when marking their ballots Tuesday.

Edmond residents Paul Blair, Adam Pugh and Jeff Tallent spoke before members of the Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce Friday morning.

With education on the minds of Oklahomans, each of the candidates were asked if they support University of Oklahoma President David Boren’s proposal to add an additional 1 cent sales tax on purchases to support education.

State Question 779 would create a 1 percent sales tax in the state to be deposited into the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund.

Tallent said he is not against taxation when there are good reasons. Passage of SQ 779 would result in a bad tax that “lets legislators off the hook,” he said.

“It sets a dangerous precedence,” Tallent said. “It means anytime now the legislature does not want to take action, they can just simply kick it to the people,” Tallent said.

The proposed sales tax would increase taxes to a point where municipalities depending on sales tax revenue get squeezed out, he said.

There is something out of balance when underpaid teachers work in a system that pays some superintendents $250,000 a year, Tallent said.

Blair said, “I absolutely do not support a 1 percent sales tax proposed by a tax-and-spend Democrat president of one of our universities in order to garner additional funds for himself by writing his effort on the back of teachers who should be compensated for their services.”

This sales tax would make many Oklahoma cities among the highest sales-taxed communities in the United States, Blair added.

“You do not tax an already depressed economy,” he continued. “Quite frankly, part of the problem is a mismanagement of time and the funds.”

He agreed with Pugh and Tallent that the legislative body should not be waiting until the last second to take care of the budget. He encouraged voters to observe the behavior of their legislators.

“I went down on back-to-back days to deal with a particular issue to watch the Senate have their opening prayer and then immediately dismiss for the day without making one iota of business because they are playing political parliamentary games around the clock on issues,” Blair said.

Legislators can make the time to deal with the issues that Oklahomans live with on a daily basis, Blair said. He pointed out that Oklahoma has the money to cover the necessary services of government but they must be more efficient.

Pugh gave Boren credit for stepping forward to offer a solution when Republicans failed to do so. But Pugh joined with Blair and Tallent in opposing SQ 779.

Republicans have not had the right vision and leadership to reform the education system in the state.

“We are failing,” he said.

Pugh said SQ 779 would indiscriminately give all teachers a $5,000 pay raise, he said. Not everyone is justified to be rewarded with the same pay raise, Pugh explained.

“There are ways as my opponents have mentioned to get more out of government and be more efficient,” he said. “We can fund education properly. We can give teachers the amount of money and respect that their profession deserves.”

Pugh said he would work diligently to make sure all funding for education is accountable, including the proposed 1 percent sales tax if it passes.

“I will not support and I will not be voting for that particular proposal.”

Edmond Democrat Kevin McDonald, the 2015-16 District Teacher of the Year, also filed for Senate District 41 and will face the Republican nominee Nov. 8. Edmond Libertarian Richard Prawdzienski is vying for state Senate District 41.

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