TULSA, Jan. 8, 2018 — Gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson today said Oklahoma should invest in its future by working to reduce its dependence on unstable income sources like the gross production tax (GPT) and creating a capital improvement fund.
Once the budget situation has stabilized and core government services like education, public safety and health care are fully funded, Edmondson said the state should begin to remove GPT from general appropriations. Those dollars, he said, would be better directed to a special fund dedicated for capital improvements and infrastructure needs like roads, bridges and necessary facilities.
Edmondson, who made the remarks today to a group of architecture, engineering and construction professionals at a Tulsa meeting of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, said the state has repeatedly suffered from its reliance on GPT monies.
“By its very nature, the GPT fluctuates from year to year,” Edmondson said. “We should be building the foundation of our state budget with less variable income streams.”
Edmondson has also voiced his support for restoring GPT to 7 percent, and months ago pledged to take the issue to a vote of the people should the legislature fail to make this necessary adjustment. He applauded a group of oil and gas professionals who have picked up that banner and are actively working on a ballot initiative to achieve that goal.
“The ballot initiative effort is being led by energy industry leaders who understand that this is a fairness issue,” Edmondson said. “For too long, corporate lobbyists have ruled the roost at the capitol and I’m encouraged to see so many leaders from the oil and natural gas industry standing up to do the right thing for our state and its people.”
The former attorney general says his idea should be part of a long-range solution to Oklahoma’s budget issues.
“Shifting the GPT away from the general appropriations process should be a gradual undertaking,” Edmondson said, “and that process must only begin once the state’s budget has rebounded from the legislative mismanagement that has so deeply impacted the core functions of state government, including health care and education.”
Edmondson said a dedicated funding source for capital improvement projects could aid in business recruitment.
“It’s easier to ask private industry to invest in our state when we can show that our state is investing in itself,” Edmondson said.
A capital improvement fund will also save millions of taxpayer dollars because the state can finance projects with monies from the fund instead of issuing bonds for infrastructure projects and paying the heavy interest that accompanies those borrowed dollars, Edmondson said.
“It just makes good business sense,” Edmondson said. “We have to stabilize our state and then begin changing the way we operate from a fiscal standpoint. Step one is to stop digging the hole we’re in. Step two is to make sure we don’t end up back here again.”
A Navy veteran, Edmondson served as Oklahoma’s attorney general from 1995 to 2011. He is best known for taking on Big Tobacco, including a role on the negotiating team for the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement that prohibited tobacco companies from marketing their products to children. Edmondson led the charge to establish the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, which constitutionally protected the tobacco settlement money and ensured that it can only be spent on public health. To date, the Tobacco Trust balance stands at more than $1 billion. He has made a career of standing up to big business, including battles against Wall Street fraud and corporate polluters. Learn more at www.drewforoklahoma.com.