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Jones announces run for governor

Gary Jones said his financial and auditing background makes him the ideal candidate to deal with the state's budget crisis, and that's why he is running for governor in 2018.

Life ties to Southwest Oklahoma

Jones, a southwest Oklahoma farmer and one-time Comanche County commissioner who is in his second term as Oklahoma state auditor, was in Lawton Wednesday to officially kick off his campaign for governor. Jones said he took off from his job Wednesday to dedicate one full day to his announcement; hereafter, he will limit his campaigning to nights and weekends to avoid conflicts with his job as state auditor.

Jones, who earned his CPA designation in 1999 and holds a bachelor of business degree with an emphasis in auditing from Cameron University, said his financial background is important. He understands finances and that understanding is key in addressing Oklahoma's budget crisis, a problem impacting all other state functions, he said, predicting floundering revenues and their effect on the state will be the major issue in the 2018 gubernatorial race.

Background in finance

He said few people in state government fully understand the budget problem and its impact on state agencies and public services, as he does, and he said decisions that must be made are based in state finances, a field he has been immersed in since being elected state auditor in 2010.

Jones said Oklahoma has lost $2 billion in revenue over the last 20 years, pointing to decisions such as cutting the percentage of personal income taxes and cutting the gross production tax on oil and gas to 2 percent (it had been 7 percent). Jones said while supporters of that decision say the tax has been as low as 1 percent, he argues the state was giving a 6 percent credit to producers to encourage horizontal drilling, something that now is unnecessary because 90 percent of wells now are the result of horizontal drilling.

Positions on production tax, teacher pay, prison reform

He supports the idea of setting the gross production tax at 5 percent, returning to 7 percent when prices increase, and putting some of that revenue in the state's Rainy Day Fund and the education stabilization fund.

Those decisions could help state legislators address something a majority of Oklahomans say they want: pay raises for teachers, necessary as Oklahoma continues to lose its educators to better paying jobs in other states and to balance the falling rate of college students who enter the teaching profession.

"Teacher pay raises are the number one priority," Jones said, of state residents.

Jones said his plan for the state budget is not a quick fix, but rather a way to look at the budget and make the adjustments that are necessary.

He also wants to look at other issues, such as the Department of Corrections. Jones said the state must look at new solutions, explaining Oklahoma already puts more women in prison than any other state or country, and is on track to becoming the number one state in total incarcerations. Jones said he believes criminals should be punished for their crimes, but the state also is best served by ensuring those prisoners have treatment for their addictions and the ability to care for their families.

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