Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Emergency Funding Requested

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Emergency Funding Requested

Article excerpt

Leaders of the Democratic majority in the Oklahoma Legislature, saying they were at an impasse with the governor, moved Tuesday to tap the emergency rainy-day fund for $22.8 million.

But there were strong doubts that they could muster the three-fourths majority needed in the House and Senate to access the fund.

Gov. Frank Keating called the action regrettable and said his office is ready to resume budget negotiations halted late last week.

Keating said the two sides differ on "a bunch of little things." One issue, he said, is that he wants a permanent solution to the perennial problem of mid-term funding for schools with growing enrollments.

Keating said he was willing to set aside until next year his insistence on tax cuts in order to reach an agreement.

He said lawmakers have "one shot" to write the budget because he does not plan to call a special session after adjournment on May 26.

Keating said some items listed by legislators should be handled in the regular funding process and that he is reluctant to spend rainy-day money on those items.

He also said his office is insisting that a major effort be made to ease a $25 million-to-$50 million shortfall in the teacher retirement system, an issue raised earlier in the session by Democratic leaders.

House Speaker Glen Johnson, D-Okemah, and Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor, D-Claremore, signed the emergency declaration required to access the constitutional fund.

Taylor said Democratic lawmakers had tried for weeks to reach agreement with the governor's office in several budget areas.

He said legislators "really don't have any other choice at this point" than to try to tap the fund without the governor's support. "We tried to reach a compromise on funding questions, but were unable to find enough common ground."

Johnson said the items that would be funded under the declaration had been requested at various times by Keating.

Taylor and Johnson declined to describe the nature of the arguments with the governor's office on the state's $3.7 billion budget.

"We feel like we're at a point in time where we need to complete our work," Johnson said. …

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