Republican leaders criticize Governor's budget

Wednesday, February 6th 2008, 7:57 pm
By: News 9

By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9

Republican leaders in the House and Senate today took aim at the Governor's budget proposal, just two days after it was made public.

It may be unexpected, in light of the GOP's troubles on the House side, the balance of power on the Senate side and the Governor's plea on Monday for greater bipartisanship this session, but Republican appropriations officials wanted to send a message to taxpayers that the Governor's budget is unrealistic.

"His budget is typical Brad Henry," Rep. Ken Miller (R) House Appropriations Chair said. "He is ‘for' everything, but we have the pesky obligation of paying for the bills we pass into law,"

Critics say the Governor's $7.3 billion budget proposal includes more than half a billion dollars in new spending on things like lengthening the school year and giving state employees a pay raise.

It does not, however, make clear where all the necessary revenues will come from.

"This is a smoke and mirrors budget," Sen. Mike Johnson (R) Senate Appropriations Co-Chair said. "If the legislature passed this budget and its proposals tomorrow, the Governor would have to veto it because it would be unconstitutional and out of balance."

But they say this doesn't necessarily mean they oppose the Governor's programs.

"We just need more details to find out what is the true cost and what do we really need to plan on paying for," Miller said.

"If they have questions about the budget, we're here to answer them," Sund said.

A spokesman for the Governor says the details Republican leaders say they need are available, if they'd just ask. But he says, the reality is, today's news conference was about putting themselves in the spotlight.

"This back and forth and one-ups-man ship doesn't help anybody," Governor Spokesman Paul Sund said. "Let's get a budget that actually puts the needs of Oklahomans first, not the legislature."

Republican leaders say this was just part of the normal process at the Capitol and that their concerns are legitimate. They say more than anything they want to avoid approving anything that could create big funding gaps in the future.

It's still not exactly clear how much money state lawmakers will have to appropriate for next fiscal year.
The State Board of Equalization meets later this month and will certify new revenue figures.