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Oklahoma State Senate, Dist. 17 Candidates Q&As

 

As is our tradition, The Countywide & Sun posed a set of questions to the candidates for the Republican nomination for the Dist. 17 seat in the Oklahoma State Senate. That district includes much of Pottawatomie County, as well as a portion of Oklahoma County. The candidates are Brandon Baumgarten, Shane Jett and Ron Sharp, all of Shawnee. Sharp is the incumbent. The winner will face Libertarian Greg Sadler in November. The candidates' answers are reprinted here as submitted, except for obvious spelling and grammatical errors.

Next year's budget should be a huge challenge. How will you approach that challenge? Do you have specific priorities?

BAUMGARTEN: As we enter into this challenging budget crisis, my approach will be to always exercise fiscal responsibility. As a legislative body, we have a duty to be good stewards of the people's money and we must make sure our all of our state agencies and government entities are managing their money soundly too. With the recent creation of the Legislative Office of Fiscal Responsibility or LOFT, the job becomes more clear as we will constantly be updated on the government's expenditures both in part and as a whole. My top priority will be to maintain funding for our state's core services as well as look for ways our state can cut needless government expenses. 

JETT: Our number one priority must be getting our economy going again. We need a budget that reflects that with business friendly tax rates and regulation. We need to focus on key areas that are true priorities of government - like schools, public safety, roads and senior citizens.

SHARP: The funding of core essential services should be the state's primary focus.

In 2015, I authored the "Performance Budget and Transparency Act." (SB 189). Since 2015, this Act has been the basis of establishing all agency budgets in  Oklahoma based on performance measures. This 2015 Act requires all agencies to establish performance goals to justify their revenue requests to the legislature.

 The following fiscal year's budget request requires that agency to detail its expenditures of the previous year's funds as to it meeting its performance goals. If the agency falls short of its goals, the agency recognized by statute a reduction of state funds was probable.

 Unfortunately, Oklahoma's revenue volatility for most of the last five years required agency budget cuts regardless if it had met - or fallen short -  of its performance goals. 

 Unless Oklahoma's revenue swiftly rebounds, an agency being funding at a level it cannot function should be the ultimate test to determine if its continued existence is necessary.  The 2015 act should be used to determine if that agency should receive continued funding if it can not function with the funds available by its appropriation.

If the agency is cut to the point it cannot function in meeting its performance goals, it would be practical, instead, to direct those funds to that agency which can functionally provide core essential services.

What lessons about government have you learned during the pandemic?

BAUMGARTEN: During the pandemic, I have learned the government can play a substantial role in either help resolving the crisis or adding to the crisis. None of us were prepared when COVID-19 hit and many government leaders did their best to lessen the impact while there were some leaders who used it as an opportunity to infringe upon our first amendment rights including but not limited to the freedom of religion. 

JETT: The government has enormous power, to do good and to do harm. We must guard against those who would use times like these to strip us of fundamental rights. But we are also reminded of the good government does in our communities. For example - who among us with children does not have a much greater appreciation of the incredible work our teachers and educators do every single day? 

SHARP: Our citizens will not tolerate for an extended period of time any restrictions upon their freedoms regardless to the risks.

Quoting General Douglas MacArthur: "There is no security in the world, only opportunity."

Our citizens have historically recognized the risks inherent with freedom, and yet have been willing to defend and preserve those freedoms with their lives, if necessary.

It certainly came as no surprise to me that Oklahomans were not going to submit to the shut down of their jobs and businesses.

The one lesson that I have learned from being born in my generation was that I was the product of the greatest generation. 

The wisdom of that greatest generation was immense since they had experienced and survived the great hardships of their decades. That greatest generation risked their lives in WW II to preserve the freedoms for future generations. The price of freedom has never been free! 

It is apparent that most Oklahomans believe we have paid too high a price to be denied our freedom by government officials.

Please list your top three priorities should you be elected.

BAUMGARTEN: Funding Core Services, Infrastructure/Roads, Improving Internet Connectivity 

JETT: Economic Recovery in a post-COVID19 Oklahoma - improved state tribal relations to maximize economic impact on the local community. Improving efficiencies in state government so taxpayers do not pay too much or wait too long for government services, license or permits.

Job Creation - We must remove artificial governmental barriers to existing Oklahoma business to fostering competition and free enterprise. We must attract outside business to Oklahoma through incentives and the improved business climate.

Quality Education - A skilled and well trained workforce is the key to a strong and vibrant economy. I am for quality schools with curriculum tailored to the needs of the student with a focus on problem solving and creative thinking.

SHARP: My top priorities: (1) Continue to expose the improper transfer of public funds for private profit. I will insist that all Oklahoma expenditures be accountable and transparent. If a public expenditure can not be viewed in the sunshine, it is in my assessment darkened with corruption; (2) Continue to provide my accessibility to my SD 17 constituents and vote on their behalf on legislation. I will not vote for the benefit of special interest, nor fall under the control of a single individual with an agenda. Intimidation from either special interest or an individual does not receive my respect; 

And (3) Continue to honor those American citizens who have served in the defense of our nation and state. I will continue to vote to protect life! I will continue to provide constituent assistance in dealing with federal or state agencies. I will continue to support our emergency first responders who risk their lives each day to provide for our protection and safety. 

Why are you the best choice to be the State Senator for Dist. 17?

BAUMGARTEN: Now more than ever we need leaders who are willing to fight for our conservative values. This is my first time to run for public office and I believe it's time for my generation to step up and make a difference. My experiences as a small business owner, leadership coach, youth minister, author, and former State FFA Officer have all prepared me to service in this capacity. As your state senator, I will give all that I have to make our district the best place it can be to grow our families, raise our kids, and live out the Oklahoma Standard. It would be an honor to earn your vote! 

JETT: The challenges facing Oklahoma's economy is going to require our best efforts. I bring real world experience and training to the table. I have international business experience and a business degree from Oklahoma Baptist University. I have 11 years of experience as Navy Intelligence officer. I have already served six years in the Oklahoma House of Representative. For the last nine years, I have served as a CEO of a financial institution responsible for creating hundreds of jobs in our state. In 2016, President Donald Trump appointed me to the United States Treasury's Community Development Advisory Board. I would be honored to represent the families of Senate District 17. I am a Ronald Reagan Republican and a Paul Harvey American. I believe in doing the right thing for the right reason. Look me up at http://www.JettForSenate.com and Vote Jett on Tuesday, June 30! 

SHARP: I have lived in SD 17 all of my life. I did not just recently move into the district to run for this job. Having proudly served as the senator for the last eight years, I have the institutional knowledge to do the job. Not one of my opponents can list that as a qualification for this elected office.

During my eight years in the State Senate, I have written a column every single week for the purpose of keeping my constituents informed. I know of no other legislator who has attempted as diligently as I have to keep constituents informed of issues occurring both during and in the interim of the legislative session.

Having graduated from Shawnee High School, I also taught at my alma mater for 38 years.  During those 38 years I have taught hundreds of students who have continued after their graduation to live in SD 17.

My knowledge as a teacher of Oklahoma history and government has served me well in this senate position. Economics was one of my favorite subjects to teach and my understanding of this subject has helped me to relate by facts what works and what doesn't work in business.

One of my favorite quotes: "The only time success comes before work is in a dictionary!"

We have a workforce in Oklahoma ready to work. My responsibility as the senator for SD 17 is to create the opportunity for older businesses to expand and new businesses to build in the district. My total REID score supporting business for the past eight years in the Senate is scored at 96%, which is the highest of any legislator.

Oklahoma Farm Bureau has recognized my 100% support for farmers for several years.

With nearly 53% of the total expenditure of our state directed to education, my knowledge of the Oklahoma "Education Equalization Funding Formula" is important to answering superintendent's questions relating to their school's funding.

Career tech funding is quite different than funding provided to public schools. I am fortunate to have both Gordon Cooper and Eastern Oklahoma Career Techs in SD 17. Nothing in the U.S. compares to the quality of Oklahoma's Career Tech system. As senator, I will be there to assure our career techs are able to meet the demands of our state's workforce development. 

Seminole State will continue to be locally controlled and will be funded to provide quality education classes to our area students.

Oklahoma Baptist University will continue to be provided all possible attention to insure its success as a private Christian university in Shawnee. I am very proud to have OBU in my SD 17 district!

I will continue to show my appreciation to our Native American tribes and thankful for the economic benefits they provide to their employees in SD 17.

My mayors, city managers, and council members in SD17 know they will have continued and complete access to me with a direct call to my cell phone. 

I will continue to represent my SD 17 constituents with 100% attendance at the Capitol. I will not show up late for legislative session or only when convenient.  

My duty will continue to be directed to my senate responsibilities and not secondary to another job.

And, I will constantly seek as a legislator the wisdom of our Heaven Father.

 

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