Tuesday night’s debate between state representative candidates Dustin Roberts and Jerry Tomlinson and Bryan County sheriff candidates Ken Golden and John Wyatt revolved around six questions for each set of candidates.
The questions asked of the state representative candidates were on taxes, education, state questions and federal benefits.
The candidates were asked if they support Governor Fallin’s proposal to eliminate Oklahoma’s income tax.
In response to this, Tomlinson spoke about the repercussions eliminating tax would have on budget items such as the public education system.
He said he is in support of the idea but only if there is another way found to produce revenue to support such budget items.
Roberts agreed that with another revenue source the elimination of the tax could work. He outlined an alternative slower plan for reducing and eventually eliminating the tax.
Question two for the candidates was “State Superintendent Barresi and the state board of education has proposed a $289 million increase for Oklahoma State schools. 1st, would you support this increase? And 2nd, in what areas would you recommend the money be spent?”
Roberts answered first saying he would be in favor of the increase as long as a “line item budget” was produced. He listed several ways the money could be used to benefit public schools.
Tomlinson on the other had expressed his concern that the money may actually be used to support private schools and institutions rather than going into the public school system.
He also said that he was concerned that all the changes that have been made in schools with money in the past has been done without adequate input from school administration such as superintendents, principals and teachers.
Candidates were asked if they were in favor of both state questions 758, which proposes to lower the cap on property taxes from five percent to three percent and 766, which proposes to exempt all intangible property from ad valorem tax.
In response to this Tomlinson asked “how long has it been five percent? Has it worked?” Tomlinson then asked how a new three percent cap would work. Tomlinson stressed that these taxes are how schools receive much of their funding.
“I’m voting yes on both” said Roberts. Roberts said that Oklahoma has enough other taxes to take care of the budget items.
In regards to the intangible tax, Roberts said that the tax is not usually enforced anyway so why make it a possibility.
The candidates were also asked about the issue of selling Oklahoma water to Texas. To this both candidates stood firm on their positions not to sell Oklahoma water.
“The water ain’t going to Texas” said Roberts. “Protecting water is what I’m about,” said Tomlinson, referring to water as a state’s lifeline.
On the issue of food stamps the candidates agreed that these sorts of benefits are becoming too easily accessible.
Roberts gave a few suggestions on how to better protect the system such as having employers call DHS when they hire a person who does not take the job and drug testing.
Both candidates showed great passion when asked if Oklahoma is doing enough for returning National Guardsmen.
Both agreed that much more can be done for those returning from war. Both offered suggestions for returning guardsmen on where to go currently for jobs and support.
In closing statements Tomlinson urged voters to vote for him because he is the representative with the most experience in life and business.
Roberts pointed out that while he is younger, he has more experience in the state representative seat and has helped to build needed coalitions already.
Candidates for Sheriff were asked questions mainly concerning the drug issues in the county and building relationships within the community.
When asked if enough is being done to patrol the smaller communities in the county, Golden said that the officers available are out on patrol as much as possible.
He said that the problem is that the resources are lacking for the department to send out as many officers as it would like to patrol these areas.
Wyatt on the other hand said that the lack of resources was not the problem. “I believe it’s management,” said Wyatt.
Wyatt said he plans to have officers patrolling all areas of the county. Golden replied that since he has been working in the sheriff’s office he knows the recourses at hand and has plans to work within those means.
Both said that they have plans to create more outreach programs and get more involved in the community.
“I do go out in the community. I do talk to people,” said Golden. “The citizens have a lot to say to us” said Wyatt.
In closing, Golden said that is easy when you have never worked in the sheriff’s office to say you will do more. There are only so many resources available and you have to work with that.
“I am looking forward to the challenge,” said Golden.
Wyatt said in his closing that has worked on a jail before and received naval accommodations for his work.
He said that he has four objectives as sheriff: put deputies out in the county, shut down the meth labs, protect citizens’ properties and put prisoners to work.