OKLAHOMA CITY - Senate leaders are questioning the numbers released by Governor Keating today showing that a proposed Truth In Sentencing plan would cost $386 million dollars less previously reported. The new numbers the governor cited were prepared by a group called the Joint Center for Justice Studies.
"I'm puzzled by why these numbers are so radically different from the Oklahoma Criminal Justice Resource Center. They have studied this issue for years. It would appear there hasn't been adequate time for this out of state group to have thoroughly reviewed the numbers," said Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor.
"When you have a gap of $386 million, you should not act in haste. It would have been nice if the Governor and Republican legislators would have brought this to the bipartisan Truth In Sentencing Committee that has been working on this the past 3 years. It speaks volumes that they did not. They were more interested in a partisan press conference than actually tackling this very difficult problem," said Taylor.
Governor Keating claimed that with the new numbers, passage of HB 1003 would mean more dollars for education.
"I welcome the alleged conversion to supporting public education. We were afraid we were going to have to file a missing persons report on them when it came to this issue. But the fact is, when it comes to school children versus criminals, Governor Keating has opted for the criminals, spending three times the amount on them as a percentage than he did for the school kids," noted Senator Taylor.
Further complicating this situation, two weeks ago Keating's own Finance Secretary Tom Daxon claimed that the first year impact of HB 1003 would be an additional $19,183,185 with an increase of 2239 inmates. However the new organization projects there will only be an increase of 59 inmates, claiming a savings of $8,461,430 in the first year of HB 1003.
"If a CEO in the private sector received such conflicting advice from so-called experts somebody's head would roll," commented Taylor.
Senator Cal Hobson, Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education said he was extremely skeptical of last minute figures.
"This is an old trial lawyers tactic the Governor learned when he was a member of the Richardson law firm in Tulsa. If you don't like the answer you're getting, just hire another expert who will say what you want," said Senator Hobson.
"It is obvious that someone's numbers are wrong, and we can't take that big a risk in this short time. We're calling on the Governor and his colleagues to resume the dialogue in a bipartisan manner, not in a press conference," said Senator Taylor.