OKLAHOMA CITY -Calling it "one of the top five dumb vetoes of all time," a Senate budget leader is taking exception to Governor Keating's veto of funding for a prison infirmary.
"This is like mailing an engraved invitation to the federal courts, asking them to take over our prison system," said Senator Cal Hobson, Vice-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "I'm sure Lou Bullock is licking his chops because this veto plays right into his hands.
"Not only is this veto incredibly dumb, it could be incredibly expensive as well. The price tag of federal court intervention will run into the hundreds of millions of dollars."
Governor Keating vetoed a $300,000 appropriation that would have created an infirmary for women inmates at the Mabel Basset Corrections Center. Currently, Oklahoma has no infirmary for its female prisoners.
"The federal courts have insisted that we offer the same quality of service to male and female inmates. It's not an either or deal. It's not a want to, it's a have to. Whether you like it or not, you provide the service or you risk the threat of federal court sanctions," said Senator Hobson. "We can't afford to have the federal courts running our prison system again."
The Lexington legislator says Governor Keating's action will only add fuel to a federal lawsuit currently being pushed by attorney Louis Bullock.
"The last thing we need to do is give Lou Bullock some additional ammunition for his lawsuit, but that's exactly what Governor Keating has done. It's like waving a red cape in front of a bull. A prudent person just doesn't do it," said Senator Hobson.
Governor Keating's veto also contributes to security problems at Oklahoma's only maximum security facility for women inmates. Because the state has no infirmary for inmates, they must be transported elsewhere for treatment.
"When you have to transport dangerous criminals every time they need some kind of medical treatment, you endanger public safety unnecessarily. For someone who supposedly puts public safety at the top of his priority list, this is a pretty irresponsible action," said Senator Hobson.
The Mabel Basset appropriation was the product of an interim study that recommended the action.
"This isn't something we rushed into overnight, it was the culmination of a lengthy study. I just wish Governor Keating and his staff had spent a fraction of the time examining the impact of a veto because it is going to be devastating," said Senator Hobson.
"It's my understanding that DOC talked to the Office of Finance about the importance of the project this morning, but the Governor vetoed it anyway. I don't know how to put it in any simpler terms. This veto, this $300,000 line item, is going to end up costing the state millions of dollars. It is incredibly bad judgment on the Governor's part."