Tom Pauken Interview - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Tom Pauken Interview

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Amarillo, TX -- Republican candidate for Texas governor spoke with NewsChannel 10 reporter Jeff Stebbins on Thursday July 11.  The transcript of the conversation is as follows.

J.S. I'm here with gubernatorial candidate Tom Pauken, and ... first of all, sir, can you just summarize your campaign - why are you running for governor of Texas?

Pauken: Well, I think in a way we've lost our way in the era of post-Reagan politics.  We've gotten away from sound policies based on our conservative principles even with the Republicans.  I think it's both political parties and the power of big money - an enormous amount of power; almost in effect overwhelming, almost obscene.  My opponent Greg Abbott is a pleasant fellow, but I served as Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission, and I think his focus has been more on raising money - I mean, he's gotten hundreds of thousands of dollars from individual law firms as Attorney General, and reporting a tremendous amount of money.  This is a real battle for the soul of the Republican Party.  I'm a longtime conservative, and I was part of the "Reagan Revolution" if you will, and I think it's really the Reagan conservatives versus the top-down Rove Republicans, and which direction the Republican Party goes in the future.  We've forgotten the middle class and the average citizen.  Too many people as I go around the state don't feel they have a say in what's going on in Washington or Austin, and I think back to when I first got involved in the conservative movement, I remember Barry Goldwater saying, "You know, our job is not to represent big business, big labor, big government - they've got plenty of folks representing them.  Our job as conservatives is to represent the forgotten Americans - the middle-class taxpayers that don't have lobbyists in Washington and aren't looking for loopholes in the law," and I think we've got to do that here in Texas.  If we're going to lead the nation back, we've got to show the way.

J.S. Okay, and speaking of which, I know one of your big issues, especially serving as Texas Workforce Commission Chairman for a long time is the unemployment rate.  What would you do to address unemployment in Texas?

Pauken: Well, what I'm concerned about is we're losing too many of our young people who wind up dropping out of school because they're not given an opportunity for a career in technical education - what we used to call "vocational education," which got me coming back into government in 2008, and I'd been in the private sector since leaving the Reagan Administration, was the idea of pushing everybody to go to a university, and a top-down, one-size-fits-all, teaching-to-the-test system, and so I have fought that.  We're finally getting to the point of a more common-sense approach to education which will allow for more vocational education, and you get trained workers, and the jobs are out there for people if they just have that opportunity.  So I believe in local control of education, multiple paths to a high school degree, and more emphasis on vocational education, and I think that's key.  As I've traveled the state as Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission, I kept hearing from employers, "You know, we've got a graying work force, Tom, a shortage of skilled workers, and we've choked off the pipeline of skilled workers by neglecting vocational education."  So I led the fight and worked with many people - including a local superintendent here - as well as Jimmy Don Aycock in getting House Bill 5 passed, which will allow for more opportunities for skilled workers, and I think that's good for the economy and that will be good for the unemployment rate, because you're giving people an opportunity, an open opportunity, to be self-sufficient, rather than dropping out of school and going on the unemployment dole.

J.S. Okay.  So the way I understand it, you feel that education is key to addressing the unemployment rate.  What can you tell me about your stance on how you wish to fund public education?

Pauken: Well, what I'm troubled by - and I led the fight against - the so-called "Robin Hood" school finance scheme, which is really a redistribution taking from some local property taxes and redistributing them elsewhere.  I believe school property taxes should stay local.  When Ann Richards tried to put it in as a constitutional amendment, we defeated it two to one.  So she put it in legislatively, and two governors later, it's still there.  Now Greg Abbott defends that - in fact, he's defended it in court, and I think it's unconstitutional.  It's in violation of our state constitution as prohibition of a statewide property tax.  I will get rid of it, and that's $1.1 billion in lower property taxes, and you can do it two ways: one is, take the money out of the Rainy Day Fund, and give it back to the taxpayers by lowering property taxes, or if that's not available, then you could take a slight increase in sales tax and decrease the property tax by an equal amount.  We've got to figure out a way to fund the property-poor districts, and I get the educators and parents and people who are involved in this issue and work with legislators in coming up with a common-sense alternative to this existing school finance system that doesn't work, and yet, our current leadership doesn't do anything about this.

J.S. Okay.  You know, I think another issue that's on a lot of people's minds, especially now, is border security and immigration.  What's your stance on that?

Pauken: Well, I'll tell you this:  I have said from day one that I will get rid of this boondoggle called the "emerging technology fund."  The government shouldn't be in the business of picking winners and losers in a public venture capital investment fund, and that's exactly what this is.  It's wrong when Obama does it, and it's wrong when our governor does it.  I will eliminate that $50 million dollar fund, and apply that 50 million dollars toward increased border security.  I don't have a lot of confidence in Janet Napolitano and Homeland Security in terms of protecting our own borders, and we have a responsibility to do that.  So I will bring together a team of people, retired military and civilians who are knowledgeable about border security and perimeter security, and also knowledgeable about the drug cartels from an intelligence standpoint, and the criminal gangs that have come into our state as well.  We have a responsibility to deal with that, and that will be high on my list of priorities as the next governor of Texas.

J.S. Okay.  You know, as we speak, the Texas Legislature is debating the abortion bill, and you were talking about the Obama Administration's "assault on religious freedom" as you put it. What do you mean by that?

Pauken: Well, look at Obamacare.  I mean, forcing people of religious faith to violate their own tenets - that's not American.  That's wrong.  We've got to stand up and oppose that.  This whole business of secular, I call it "secular fundamentalism," is trying to separate religious belief from the public square.  It's in opposition to the very founding of this nation.  In fact, the Mayflower Compact, which was written by the Pilgrims who first came here, the first words were, "In the name of God, Amen," and yet there's this constant barrage of efforts to abolish God from the public square.  Without a culture based upon the principles of Christianity, we wind up falling into what I call the Darwinian survival of the fittest; every man for himself - we've got to have a solid culture, and the best way to do it is to have it based upon the Judeo-Christian ethic and the principles of Christianity and not separate those from real life.

J.S. Okay.  I guess my last question for you would be, how would you intend to change Texas politics as governor from the current status quo?

Pauken: Well, what's happened in the post-Reagan period is you've got a top-down system where big money drives the trains, and the people whose political allegiance is garnered is based on the big paychecks that are written and also the influence of certain powerful lobbyists in Austin.  It's a dirty little secret in that town.  I saw it, I was very disillusioned by it coming as an outsider back into state government, that's got to change.  You've got to go back and build a coalition of social and economic conservatives, put grassroots teams together, and bring outsiders into Austin.  There's an incredible amount of talent and experience and knowledge at the grassroots level, and Texas has got to lead the way in terms of getting this nation back on the right track, but we at the same time had better get our act together, and I hate to say it, but the career politicians are not going to do the job in terms of challenging the Left and the Obama crowd as they attempt to expand their reach into Texas.

J.S. Okay.  Really, I think that was all the questions I had for you - am I missing anything crucial here that you wish to address?

Pauken: Well, I just think this is an interesting test.  If big money wins it, then I don't win, Greg Abbott wins this race, but if people are saying, "You know, we've had enough of the career politicians, and it's time to get back to our foundational principles," then I think Tom Pauken wins this race.