Cargill Calls Budget Impasse 'Theater Of The Absurd'

Thursday, April 12th 2007, 5:50 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ House Speaker Lance Cargill sounded off about the state budget impasse Thursday, urging Gov. Brad Henry to share his budget ideas with lawmakers and scoffing at Henry's refusal to sign appropriations bills that he said mirror the governor's own executive budget.

``This is the theater of the absurd when the governor can't take yes for an answer,'' Cargill said.

Two weeks after Henry vetoed most of a $6.9 billion general funding measure for state agencies, Cargill, R-Harrah, repeated earlier demands that the governor provide a new budget plan that outlines his priorities and is acceptable to House and Senate leaders.

In vetoing the bill, Henry complained of a ``flawed process'' in which he and the House's Democratic minority were excluded from budget negotiations.

On Wednesday, the Senate passed five state agency appropriations bills with the same funding that Henry struck down last month. Henry said the individual appropriations bills would be ``dead on arrival'' if the lawmakers made no changes from the general budget bill he vetoed.

Cargill accused the Democratic governor of political posturing and said he should meet lawmakers' demands that he provide a new budget plan.

``It's not enough to criticize our plan and not come back with one of his own,'' the House speaker said. ``We would like to simply hear the governor's plan. We welcome his input.''

A spokesman for Henry, communications director Paul Sund, said Henry revealed his budgetary ideas for the state in February when he released his executive budget.

``There is plenty of information on the table to be able to begin negotiations and there is no reason why the leaders can't sit down and start talking about the budget,'' Sund said.

Cargill said Henry's executive budget is outdated. The state Board of Equalization has certified less revenue than Henry's budget proposes to spend.

Sund said Henry's executive budget plan should be considered a working draft of the governor's budget ideas that can be used as a starting point for budget talks.

``It's never used as the end-all, be-all,'' Sund said.

He said lawmaker demands for a second executive budget is not a new political tactic and that Democratic legislative leaders made similar demands of then-Gov. Frank Keating when he vetoed legislative budget agreements.

Keating, a Republican, never issued a second budget but brought lawmakers to the negotiating table and worked out a bipartisan budget that included input from all parties, including the House's minority party, Sund said.