Senate Republican Leader Glenn Coffee said today he doubts Senate Democrats are serious about supporting public safety funding in the state – saying that their proposal for more prison funding seems more like the political equivalent of a “deathbed conversion” than a legitimate change-of-heart.
“Protecting the public should be a top priority of state government. Shamefully, Senate Democrats have deliberately under-funded Oklahoma prisons, prosecutors, and law enforcement agencies for years. Their new proposal for more prison funding seems like an insincere ‘deathbed conversion’ to try to shed their ‘soft-on-crime’ public image because they feel in danger of losing their Senate majority,” stated Coffee, R-Oklahoma City.
“There is clearly a need for additional public safety funding, but what Senate Democrats have proposed today is giving DoC the table scraps left over after a massive 11 percent, $600 million increase in the state budget. With a budget increase of that magnitude, there is no excuse for their failure to properly fund public safety agencies in Oklahoma during the regular legislative session,” stated Sen. Jim Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, a member of the Senate’s appropriations subcommittee that funds public safety agencies. Reynolds participated in the subcommittee’s review of prison funding needs this summer.
“Instead of the Senate Democrats’ Band-Aid approach, the Legislature needs to develop a comprehensive, long-term plan to properly fund prisons – and other public safety agencies, as well,” Coffee stated.
While Senate Democrats now claim the Fiscal Year 2006 budget for the Department of Corrections – $409,443,403 – is too low, this is exactly the same amount of funding that Senate Democrats proposed in their General Appropriations bill that passed the Senate on March 16.
“If Oklahoma prisons are under-funded today, it is because Senate Democrats got what they asked for. So they were either incompetent in developing their original funding proposal, or they deliberately under-funded prisons so they could spend that money elsewhere in the budget – which is exactly what they have done to public safety agencies for years,” Coffee said.
Coffee said Senate Republicans have long supported making public safety a top budget priority for state government. “However, it is doubtful this will occur so long as Democrats continue their century-long control of the Senate,” Coffee stated.