Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Will Henry Force Another Budget Standoff?

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Will Henry Force Another Budget Standoff?

Article excerpt

A pleasantly surprising $6.9 billion early budget agreement, which easily passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives and state Senate last week, quickly brought out whiners and critics, from Gov. Brad Henry to consumer groups.

Announced jointly by House Speaker Lance Cargill, R-Harrah, Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan, D-Stillwater, and Co- President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, the agreement provides a reasonable balance between additional spending and new tax cuts.

More importantly, it contains very little, if any, of the $660 million bonded indebtedness proposed in the governor's budget.

In a snit because he was not consulted, Henry criticized parts of the bill and the process.

Cargill insists the governor was invited to the leadership meetings but declined claiming they only resulted in political posturing. Henry erred. The outcome was a rare example of Senate and House cooperation and bipartisan budget writing.

State Treasurer Scott Meacham, the governor's financial caddy who seemed to be calling the shots, appeared even more miffed about being left out. He said the bill does not provide enough money for education and Department of Corrections, and he is opposed to the requirement in the bill for auditing the DOC.

The carping is sour grapes and nit-picking. Their flawed budget was submitted for legislators to consider. They did and developed a bipartisan alternative.

The snub of Henry may be traceable to last year's legislative session when the governor bypassed Morgan and went to then-House speaker Republican Todd Hiett, Kellyville, and came away with a budget and tax cut proposal that angered Senate Democrat leaders, leading to a budget stalemate and a special session.

Meacham and Henry have warned of possible vetoes.

Could they be overridden?

The evenly divided Senate passed the bill unanimously, and assuming it was a good-faith agreement, Democrats probably would be bound to stand firm.

No such arrangement exists in the House, where the bill passed by a vote of 84-16, including support from 28 Democrats, more than sufficient to override.

Whether that vote would hold sufficiently in case of specific line-item vetoes is another question. …

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