OKLAHOMA CITY - Saying Governor Keating's recent actions indicate that he is out of step with the average Oklahoman, a Senate budget leader is asking the State Chief Executive to explain why his vetoes aren't representative of Oklahoma's conservative values.
"When you're breathing new life into death row inmates at the same time you're cutting funding for education, economic development and ethics, I'd say you're out of step with the rest of Oklahoma," said Senator Kelly Haney, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
"He's contradicted himself, he's contradicted his budget, he's contradicted the will of the people. There's just no rhyme or reason to his veto list."
The Senate leader made his comments today after releasing the latest list of vetoed appropriations and the affected entities. The Governor has vetoed approximately $16.4 million affecting some 28 agencies, including the Attorney General, the Ethics Commission, the State Auditor, Vocational-Technical Education, OCAST, Indigent Defense and the University Hospital's Poison Control Center.
"Those are the programs Governor Keating thinks are not important. According to him, they're all irresponsible investments, from Poison Control to Ethics," said Senator Haney.
On several of the budgets --namely the Oklahoma Tax Commission, the Teacher Preparation Commission, the Attorney General and the Indigent Defense System-- Governor Keating vetoed allocations that were very similar to his executive budget. He has also vetoed funding for state employee pay raises, even though he signed legislation authorizing them two months earlier.
"It's pretty frustrating when you give someone what they ask for, and then they turn around and veto it. At some point, the Governor needs to be held accountable for his contradictory behavior," said Senator Haney.
The Seminole legislator points out that Governor Keating has used his veto ax indiscriminately, killing funding for such good government bastions as the Ethics Commission and the State Auditor's office, and eliminating support for State Chamber of Commerce initiatives such as vo-tech and OCAST.
"Governor Keating says he wants ethics, then he cuts the watchdogs of government. Governor Keating says he wants to promote economic development, then he cuts funding for initiatives requested by the business community. Governor Keating says he wants strong education, then he cuts vo-tech and teacher preparation. Governor Keating says he wants swift justice, then he cuts the agencies in charge of expediting the death penalty process.
"Oklahomans have said time and time again they want those things too, but Governor Keating's vetoes have defied the will of the people," said Senator Haney.
The veto of Indigent Defense funding will lengthen the death penalty appeals process, increasing the life spans of convicted killers by months or years.
"When the veto winners are death row inmates and the veto losers are education and business, something is definitely out of whack with your priorities," noted Senator Haney.
The Senate budget leader is asking affected agency heads to draft a plan of action for the Governor's vetoes before the new fiscal year begins in July.
"We know these vetoes are going to do a lot of damage. The challenge now is to contain the damage caused by the Governor, and lessen its overall impact on Oklahoma."
Veto Consequences (Selected Agencies)
Poison Control Center funding cut, Child Study Center cut, etc.
Staff unable to handle capital caseload, increases delays in executions. Employee pay raise unfunded, etc.
Increased workload for consumer protection, fraud units. Delays in death penalty cases, etc.
Health research/economic development research cut.
Women's infirmary cut, increases threat of federal court action.
Job safety, drop out recovery, training for new business programs cut.
Rural economic development projects cut.
Mesonet, weather forecast service for farmers, cut.
Electronic filing, fax abilities cut, thus restricting ability to meet constitutional watchdog duties.
Data processing cut, thus restricting ability to perform oversight duties.
Fire training facility for rural firefighters eliminated.
*The veto totals for all agencies include money specifically earmarked for a state employee pay raise approved by Governor Keating in April.