Lawmakers Hold the Dome over Keating's Head
Legislative budget leaders may not be able to override Gov. Frank Keating's vetoes, but at least one of them believes they can stall a program he favors -- the State Capitol dome -- in retribution for some of those vetoes.
On Wednesday, Keating issued line-item vetoes totaling $3.4 million, transfers from the revolving funds for the state banking, securities and insurance departments to the state's special cash fund.
The governor criticized the transfers for not designating how the money was to be used during this tight budget year.
"We pulled some of the bills that were on the floor today because he had vetoed our revolving fund transfers," said Rep. Mike Mass, D- Hartshorne, House budget chair. "He didn't ask us about it, he didn't consult with us, he just vetoed that."
This is something legislative appropriations panels do every year, Mass added.
Mass said that Keating's actions unnecessarily blew a $3.4 million hole in the state budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 .
Mass was asked whether he was considering holding off the House floor some measures that the governor favors.
"I certainly would," he replied. "I'm not going to sit here and give him funding, go along with funding to build the dome for $2 million or $3 million when he just arbitrarily starts vetoing cash transfers because he doesn't like what we're going to spend the money for."
Officials have said that they need about $2.5 million to help pay for completion of the new State Capitol dome, due to be topped off early next month and officially dedicated in November.
The dome is projected to cost $20.8 million. This includes $17.5 million from private donors, including $2.5 million in cash and $15 million to be paid over up to 10 years. Another $5 million is to come from revenue bonds, but these must be approved by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
The private pledges are serving as collateral on a $11.5 million letter of credit to back the dome's construction, with the bond issue securing another credit line. However, the cash donations and bank loans total only $19 million, not quite enough to finish the dome project.
Would Mass really hold up the request $2.5 million dome- completion funding?
"As far as I'm concerned, it's a real possibility because for Mike Mass, the dome is not a pet project of mine," he said.
Goodyear bill in doubt
A bill seeking a $40 million boost for a Goodyear tire plant in Lawton is still undecided as the state Legislature nears adjournment.
The measure is the single most important one for Lawton-area legislators, including Loyd Benson, D-Frederick, who has vowed to get it passed.
Benson discussed House Bill 2245 in a conference committee with Lawton Democrats Sen. Sam Helton and Sen. Jim Maddox.
The tire plant is requesting a $40 million bond issue for a major renovation that would allow it to produce larger tires.
Benson said a final draft of the bill was prepared this week and he hopes it will emerge from committee on Monday or Tuesday. The bill needs to pass the Senate and House before going to the governor's desk for approval.
The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn May 24.
Senate President Pro Tem Stratton Taylor, D-Claremore, has said he wants to produce a bill that will help Goodyear, but will avoid imposing an expensive precedent when other companies come to the Capitol seeking aid.
Mike Hunter, Gov. Frank Keating's liaison to the Legislature, said the governor wants a final product that will please Goodyear.
"That would be the governor's guiding principle -- making sure Goodyear's happy," Hunter said.
Benson, who spent Wednesday morning testifying in a congressional redistricting lawsuit, said he has been working intensely on the Goodyear bill all week. He said he has missed some floor votes because of the work. …