How would you work to improve the state's economy?
To improve the economy we need to create the best possible environment for job creation. I will do that by working to reduce cost-drivers for business, like excessive workers' compensation costs and legal fees. I'll improve education to ensure that we have the kind of highly skilled work force that attracts good jobs. Finally, I'll work to scale back taxes on individuals and businesses.
It appears likely state lawmakers will be facing another large budget hole for the 2012 fiscal year, which starts July 1. What are your suggestions in how to deal with it? More budget cuts, or do you have some ideas to increase revenue?
The last thing Oklahoma needs during this recession is a tax hike on families or businesses. The way to grow our revenue stream is to create jobs and grow the economy, not to nickel and dime our citizens with fee increases and taxes. Government will have to be smaller, smarter and more efficient. Our state government must learn to live within its means.
House Republican leaders have said they want to work to shore up the state's underfunded pension systems. Do you have any suggestions, and do you support addressing that issue this year?
First off, anyone who has paid into a state pension system has been promised a pension and certain benefits, and it's very important that we honor that agreement. In the long run, however, some of our public pension plans are at risk of going bankrupt. Preventing a situation like that certainly needs to be a priority.
Tax revenues for the state have come in an average 5 percent for the first two months of this fiscal year. If economic growth is at least 4 percent for the fiscal year, the income tax rate is to be cut from 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent. Do you prefer letting those tax cuts go into effect or suspending them?
Lower taxes stimulate economic growth, help to create jobs and attract businesses to Oklahoma. I do support letting these tax cuts go into effect. Again, we need to find ways to make our government more efficient and effective and to live within its means, not search for ways to squeeze more money out of taxpayers and businesses.
Both of you oppose State Question 744, which would require more money for public schools but without providing a new revenue source to pay for it. If the question passes in November, how would you suggest the state meet the measure's funding requirements, which are estimated to be about $1 billion in three years?
If State Question 744 passes it will be devastating for Oklahoma, so we should all hope that does not happen. In the event that it does, growing our economy, creating new jobs and adding to our revenue stream will be that much more important, as will creating a smaller and more cost efficient government. If I'm elected governor, regardless of what happens with 744, my immediate focus will be on funding state priorities — like education, public safety, transportation and health services — and bringing fiscal responsibility to the budget process.
Is Oklahoma's state government about the right size, or are cuts needed? If so, what would you cut back?
As of 2006, Oklahoma had 515 agencies, boards and commissions. Oregon has 137. Kansas has 130. I think that's a pretty revealing statistic, and it indicates that our government has become too big, too slow and too inefficient. Our state agencies operate like 8-track players in an iPod age, and one of my priorities will be to modernize these agencies and make our government operate more efficiently and effectively.