Education a priority for Edmondson

Nathan Thompson
Drew Edmondson

Drew Edmondson, former Oklahoma attorney general and Democratic candidate for governor, campaigned in Pawhuska Monday to bring his message to voters prior to the Nov. 6 general election.

Edmondson, 72, will face off against Republican Kevin Stitt and Libertarian Chris Powell. Edmondson, who stopped by the Examiner-Enterprise Monday, said he is the only candidate in the race with a plan to restore public education funding after years of budget cuts.

Part of the funding plan would include increasing the gross production tax on oil and gas back to the historic level of 7 percent, closing loopholes in the capital gains tax and closing more loopholes in corporate taxes. Edmondson said these are not new taxes, but ones that have been reduced through incentives and legislative maneuvers over years of Republican control in both the state House and state Senate.

He said the key to Oklahoma’s success in diversifying the economy and bringing more jobs to the state is making education a priority — from prekindergarten through Career Tech and college.

“I have a plan to fund public education without raising taxes on Oklahoma families,” Edmondson said. “Education is the key to our state’s future. We have to bring down class sizes, raise teacher pay and provide funding for education at every level… And we have to make sure our schools are funded — not just in big cities— but in places like Bartlesville too. That’s how we’ll build stronger families, a ready workforce and a new Oklahoma.”

Edmondson said his Republican opponent has mischaracterized the plans for more revenue. He stressed the restoration of the gross production tax to historic levels is not a new tax.

“The Republicans got to a critical mass to raise it from 2 percent to 5 percent. There is a lot of momentum out around the state for putting it back at 7 percent,” Edmondson said. “I don’t consider it as a tax increase. I think it is doing away with an incentive that worked when it was needed. Incentives can be disposed of when it is tried and failed, or if they have been tried and completed their purpose. The purpose of reducing the gross production tax was to incentivize horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing when it was still relatively new. It worked. That’s now the way they do business and extract billions from under the soil of the state of Oklahoma.”

Edmondson said he is also opposed to vouchers, which allow public money to be used to pay for private school tuition.

“My opponent supports public money to private schools, and he has encouraged municipalities to raise property taxes to make schools ‘compete,’” Edmondson said. “I want to be clear on this. Public money should be spent on public schools, and we do not need to raise property taxes to get it done. That’s Kevin [Stitt’s] plan. I’m against it.”

He is opposed to raising the income tax rate, but supports raising the tax on tobacco from $1 per pack to $1.50. Edmondson said he would also accept more federal funding for Medicaid.

“These are our federal tax dollars and Mary Fallin refused to accept them based purely on political ideology,” he said. “This is yet another issue where Kevin Stitt agrees with Mary Fallin. I think that’s wrong. I’ll bring our tax dollars back to Oklahoma.”

Edmondson served as Oklahoma’s attorney general from 1995 through 2011, under the Republican administration of Frank Keating and Democrat Brad Henry. He also served as Muskogee County district attorney from 1983-1992 and assistant district attorney from 1979-1982. Edmondson was in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1975-1977.

He said his experience of working across political aisles when he was attorney general is key to being a successful governor.

“We have a whole new legislature coming in, not entirely new — just 70 percent new,” Edmondson said. “We will have 44 new House members regardless of what happens in November and at least 70 percent will be in first term or second term starting in January. This is a new beginning for Oklahoma. We’ll have new members in the Senate as well. I’m convinced I can work with them.”