Budget Impasse Continues With Veto Of State Agency Budget Bills

Friday, April 27th 2007, 6:29 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Following up on his veto threat, Gov. Brad Henry Friday vetoed five state agency appropriations bills and urged House and Senate leaders to work with him to end a budget impasse.

Henry also said he will not decide until Saturday whether to sign a sweeping civil justice measure that would change the way negligence and medical malpractice lawsuits are filed and litigated in state courts. A spokesman for the governor indicated Henry is working with House and Senate leaders to resolve problems with the measure.

"He's working on the flawed areas that he and others have identified in the bill and is working to resolve those issues," said communications director Paul Sund.

In a letter to Henry on Tuesday, Senate co-President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee urged Henry to sign the measure and promised to push through additional legislation to correct flaws.

In his response, Henry said he was concerned about several areas of the bill, including its $300,000 cap on non-economic damages, also known as pain and suffering, the elimination of prejudgment interest for three years after a lawsuit is filed and the consequences of changing class action and joint and several liability provisions.

The five agency budget bills Henry vetoed funded the Conservation Commission, Department of Libraries, Human Rights Commission, Tax Commission, and the State Treasurer's office for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Last month, Henry vetoed a $6.9 billion budget plan prepared by House and Senate leaders without the input of the governor and the House's Democratic minority. Lawmakers responded by passing the five individual agency budget bills at funding levels they said matched those recommended by the governor's own executive budget.

Henry said individual agency appropriations should not be authorized without an agreement on an overall budget framework.

"That hasn't happened yet," he said.

The governor also said the bills did not include language for them to go into effect on July 1, meaning they could not be used to implement the new state budget.

"Approving them would be a meaningless gesture, even if a budget framework was in place," Henry said.

"Budget negotiations involving all parties are under way, and I remain optimistic that they will soon produce a truly bipartisan budget that addresses the needs of all Oklahomans," Henry said.

House and Senate leaders called the vetoes a step backward in the budget negotiations.

"The governor could have signed these bills as a show of good faith and bipartisan cooperation, but instead he has chosen a path that brings us one step closer to a government shutdown," Coffee said.

"The governor has vetoed our budget. Now he's vetoed his own budget," said House Speaker Lance Cargill, R-Harrah. "...The citizens of Oklahoma are left to scratch their heads and wonder what exactly the governor is doing."

Related stories:

3/19/2007 Agreement Will Keep Legislature On Track To Adjourn

3/22/2007 House Democrats Close Ranks With Governor In State Budget Spat

3/25/2007 Budget Spat Gives House Democrats Reason To Crow

3/26/2007 Governor Says Budget Process Flawed, Line-Item Vetoes Likely

3/28/2007 Governor Vetoes Bulk Of 2008 Spending Bill

4/10/2007 State House Democrats Call For Fresh Start In Budget Process

4/12/2007 Cargill Calls Budget Impasse 'Theater Of The Absurd'

4/15/2007 Governor Brad Henry Using Old Gubernatorial Tactic

4/19/2007 State House Passes Budget Bills, Governor Promises Veto