Walters Regroups from Criticisms

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By Ron Jenkins `We whistle while we work and we move forward,'' Gov. David Walters said as he rejected the notion that the operation of his office has been hurt by the barrage of criticism over his controversial personnel actions.

Last week was a relatively quiet one for Walters as he returned from an economic development trip to New York. There he huddled with financial leaders and played host to dignitaries attending a new Broadway production about Oklahoma humorist Will Rogers.

The first-year governor is trying to regroup from weeks of criticism over hirings and firings.

In addition to leaving town to take part in the trade mission to New York City, Walters' campaign organization made mailings to legislators, supporters and others extolling ``the first 100 days of action'' of the Walters regime.

In a cover letter to the six-page document, Walters said ``a strong foundation for change has been laid'' by his administration.

But at week's end, another key Walters program appeared dead, leaving the new governor with little to brag about as far as getting his program through a Legislature dominated by fellow Democrats.

Walters on Thursday conceded his plan for a $300 million capital improvement program is probably dead for the year because he and legislative leaders could not agree on a method of financing the bonds.

Among the Walters proposals shelved earlier in the year were a plan to consolidate law enforcement agencies and a proposal to break up the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. The Department of Human Services plan would have created separate entities to handle juvenile and elderly programs and to run state teaching hospitals.

Curiously, some legislative leaders who had previously clashed with the governor are saying nice things about him as the session heads into its final three weeks. Lawmakers must adjourn by May 31 under the state Constitution.

``I think he's doing an OK job,'' said Senate Appropriations Chairman Stratton Taylor, D-Claremore. ``I'd grade him a `B'.''

Taylor was harshly critical of Walters' budget-cutting proposals a few weeks ago, but now is praising him for his attention to budget matters in his first year.

``He's an extremely bright and capable person and I think he'll have a successful four years,'' Taylor said.

He said he did not know that Walters had done anything different in filling state positions than past governors.

Senate President Pro Tempore Bob Cullison, D-Skiatook, said he also thought Walters had ``done a good job,'' adding it was not unusual for a new chief executive to lose some major legislative battles. …