EDMOND — The Republican challenger to an Edmond senator told an Edmond Chamber of Commerce audience Friday that radio advertisements alleging he has had tax problems are false.
“I have no tax problems, and I have not broken any laws,” Paul Blair said. “I never had any business go out of business because of tax violations.”
State Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, told Blair after the forum that he had not heard of the advertisement and that his campaign had not paid for it.
The advertisement was paid for by the Coalition for Oklahoma's Future political action committee, which has raised $300,000 since being formed in January. It has spent about $154,000 on behalf of eight Republican legislative candidates, according to reports filed with the state Ethics Commission.
The group reported spending $97,200 on behalf of Jolley, according to the report.
Political action committees can make unlimited independent expenditures on behalf of candidates or issues.
Major donors to the Coalition for Oklahoma's future were listed as Chesapeake Inc., the Chickasaw Nation, the Williams Co. Rooney Holdings and Flintco. Each gave $50,000.
Jolley, elected in 2004 to the Senate District 41 seat, said Friday evening he had heard only a part of the radio advertisement.
“I don't even know who paid for it,” Jolley said. “I can't control legally anything an independent group does.”
Company lost contract
Blair read from a letter from his accountant, David F. Johnson, of Oklahoma City, stating that he “did not find a single instance of any delinquency filing, failure to file, any wrongdoing or anything inappropriate.”
“All the businesses you have been associated with, owned and/or operated have always paid their taxes,” wrote Johnson, who has prepared taxes for Blair and his businesses since the mid 1980s.
Blair also criticized telephone calls made to Republicans last week asking them if their opinion of Blair would change if his company had lost a contract because of scandal.
“That is nothing but a true lie,” Blair said.
He said his vending company, Blair Vending and Coffee, lost the contract, which it had had for about 20 years with Edmond Public Schools, because it was outbid by another company.
“That's the way free market and free enterprise works,” he said. “Too bad for us; good for them.”
With the approaching June 26 primary, Blair, who also is pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Edmond, was the more aggressive contender during the hourlong forum. He brought along several supporters who often said “Amen” to his statements and gave him standing ovations.
The winner of the Republican primary faces independent Richard Prawdzienski in the Nov. 6 general election.
Blair criticized Jolley and other Republican legislators who control the House of Representatives and the Senate as well as GOP Gov. Mary Fallin for failing to cut the personal income tax rate this year and for failing to cut state government spending.
“The much-ballyhooed tax cut turned out to be a tax increase for 400,000 middle-class families,” he said.
He said legislators gave in to lobbyists and special interest groups by failing to eliminate or reduce corporate tax credits, which was part of the formula for the state to pay for a significant reduction in the personal income tax, which brings in about $2 billion, or about 30 percent of the state's legislative appropriated budget.
“The lobbyists are driving the train here in Oklahoma,” he said.
“These representatives are supposed to be representing we, the people. Unfortunately they're representing those who give them the $5,000 contributions that put them in office and then they go back to them to keep them in office.”
Jolley, who also received applause from his supporters, said that during the past eight years the state's top personal income tax rate was reduced from 7 percent to 5.25 percent.
Lawmakers also abolished the inheritance tax and a franchise tax for most businesses.
“We are reducing our tax burden and we're doing it responsibly,” he said.
Medical examiner's office move
Both said they support moving the state medical examiner's office to the University of Central Oklahoma campus in Edmond, but disagreed on how the state should pay for the building and the equipment.
Lawmakers two years ago passed a measure approving the move, but didn't authorize any funding for it. UCO this year proposed selling bonds through a special program to build the medical examiner's office.
Blair said he is against the proposed $42 million bond issue for the 45,000-square-foot facility.
“We hold the purse strings,” he said. “If it hasn't been done, it's because the Republicans have not gotten it done ... We have the money, let's do it. Let's not add to our debt, let's spend as we go.”
Jolley, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Republican leadership the past two years has improved the state's business climate by changing the civil justice system and overhauling the workers' compensation system.
“Oklahoma after decades of languishing finally is on the right track,” Jolley said. “We're seeing ourselves being more competitive with states like Texas.”