Tommy Hardin is the Republican incumbent for State Representative District 49. He has served in the state Legislature for eight years. His opponent, Democrat Miranda Shelton, was unable to attend Tuesday’s forum. The following summary gives a list of the questions posed to Rep. Hardin and his responses.

1. Education has been at the forefront of this state’s political conversation for some time. Even with measures that increased funding last legislative session, teacher pay, aging curriculum and low performance still haunt the state’s education system. What changes to the system, particularly regarding funding and accountability, would you propose to address this important issue?
“One of the problems we have with education is that it seems like every two years we start out trying to change something,” Hardin said, adding that he believes there are too many people trying to change things and that people should “let the teachers get back to teaching and let the students get back to learning.”
He added that teachers are put under a microscope and that some problems with education in Oklahoma take place outside the classroom. He said it was unfair to point the finger at teachers as being a problem when some students home lives prevent them from excelling academically.

2. State Question 800 would amend the state constitution to require 5 percent of the collections on oil and gas to be deposited in a trust fund known as Oklahoma Vision Fund, to help address long term needs. Do you support the proposal, and if not, what solution do you propose?

 “I think it was a pretty good solution but the problem I have, is that it will go up .2 percent every year, so it’s going to take another constitutional amendment to put a cap on it,” Hardin said, adding that this cannot go on indefinitely because it will eventually become such a high number that future legislators could potentially abuse the funds and use them in unintended areas. He said that was his problem with many state questions that amend the constitution.
“I would caution people when you amend your constitution or add a new section to your constitution you need to be very, very careful,” Hardin said.

3. There has been significant discussion of tax breaks and incentives to help balance the budget, especially those given to the wind energy industry. What are your thoughts on the importance of those promised tax credits?
“I think we’ve got to be careful there,” Hardin said, adding that even though he voted against extending the tax credits, the state gave its word to honor the tax credits. By removing them prematurely, he feels it sets a bad precedent and could make future businesses wary of coming into Oklahoma.
“They won’t be able to trust us,” Hardin said. “They won’t be able to trust the legislature to do what’s right for them. We gave them our word that this is what we’re going to do, so we need to follow through with that.”