OKLAHOMA CITY - A budget report issued by the Ethics Commission today proves just how damaging Governor Keating's veto of ethics funding was, according to a Senate leader.
"Governor Keating has given plenty of lip service to ethical government, but he certainly doesn't practice what he preaches when it comes to funding our watchdog agencies," noted Senator Keith Leftwich, Majority Whip of the Oklahoma Senate. "You can't say you're for ethical government and then restrict the Ethics Commission's ability to operate, yet that's exactly what Governor Keating did."
The South Oklahoma City lawmaker was reacting to a report by the Ethics Commission today that detailed the impact of Governor Keating's budget veto issued in the waning hours of the legislative session.
According to the commission, the veto "will create quite a bit of chaos" during an election year when the watchdog panel is especially busy and would "undermine the entire basic function of this Commission."
"The Governor's veto just makes it more difficult for the Ethics Commission to do the job voters directed it to do. When Oklahomans voted to create a state watchdog agency in 1990, they did so with the constitutional direction that it would be properly funded. Governor Keating's veto action is in direct conflict with the wishes of Oklahoma voters," said Senator Leftwich.
"By defying the explicit instruction of state voters, Governor Keating is thumbing his nose at the people of Oklahoma who have demanded tough ethics rules."
The Senate leader pointed out that Governor Keating can share the blame with House Republicans, who voted to sustain the Governor's veto of ethics funding.
"Governor Keating and the House Republican zombies worked together to cut ethics funding. We've been trying to give the Ethics Commission enough resources to stand up and run, but they knocked it down," said Senator Leftwich.
The Ethics Commission wasn't the only watchdog agency to be a veto casualty. Governor Keating also cut funding for the State Auditor, the Attorney General and the Merit Protection Commission this year.
"It's like slow water torture. One by one, Governor Keating is slowly pulling the teeth of Oklahoma's watchdog agencies, opening the door to waste, fraud and corruption. The only people who will benefit from those vetoes are those who are walking on the wrong side of the law," said Senator Leftwich.
In its report today, the Ethics Commission said it may request a supplemental appropriation from the Legislature to offset the negative impact of Governor Keating's veto.
"I'm sure lawmakers will do everything they can to help the Ethics Commission, but there's no guarantee that Governor Keating will sign it. He's unpredictable when he has his veto pen in hand," said Senator Leftwich.