Henry: Lieutenant Governor's Office Waste Of Taxpayers' Money

Saturday, February 10th 2007, 4:02 pm
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ Gov. Brad Henry strongly supported on Saturday the idea of having Oklahoma's top chief executives elected as a team, saying the office of lieutenant governor is a ``waste of taxpayers' dollars.''

``That office is a bit useless and a waste of taxpayers' dollars because of the way it is set up,'' Henry told reporters, editors and publishers attending the Oklahoma Press Association's Midwinter Convention.

The Democratic chief executive, re-elected in a landslide in November, said a governor and lieutenant governor should work together as a team for the full benefit of taxpayers. But he said that rarely happens when the two officials are from separate parties.

Henry said lieutenant governors had to search for things to do.

He stressed his comments were not a reflection on the newly installed lieutenant governor, Democrat Jari Askins.

He said he had a long relationship working in the Legislature with the Duncan Democrat, a former House member.

``I trust her,'' he said of Askins, predicting they will work together more on projects than previous governors and lieutenant governors.

Henry also suggested the constitutional requirement that the lieutenant governor serve as acting governor when the chief executive is out of state is antiquated in an age of instant communications.

He did not mention the name of Mary Fallin, the three-term Republican lieutenant governor whom Askins replaced.

Fallin, who was elected to the U.S. House from the 5th Congressional District, said Henry's comments seemed like ``a little bit of a slap in the face, but I'm sure he didn't mean it that way.''

She disagreed with having the Democratic and Republican nominees for governor and lieutenant governor running on a ticket with the Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

A measure to do that has been introduced by Rep. Gary Banz, R-Midwest City. It would require a constitutional amendment adopted in a statewide vote.

``I personally liked to be elected independently from the governor,'' Fallin said.

She also said she believed she accomplished a lot as lieutenant governor and always had plenty to do.

On another subject, Henry deflected criticism of social ills caused by gambling measures he supported in his first term. He said Oklahoma already had widespread gaming before he took office four years ago, but ``we just stuck our heads in the sand and ignored it.''

He said legislation he has supported, while not raising as much money as originally projected for education, has produced a measure of state regulation of tribal gaming and some funding for compulsive gambling when none existed in previous years.

He also said this year's centennial celebration will not only raise awareness of the state nationally, but will help change the perception Oklahomans have of themselves as they realize how great their state is.

``We need a little bit of an attitude adjustment ourselves,'' he said.

He said many people moving to Oklahoma are surprised by its beauty and the fact that it and California are the only states with 10 separate ecosystems.

Henry also:

_ said he sees no need for an English-only law that has drawn the ire of some Indian tribes.

_ said he believes the chances of a special session are less then 50-50, although he is concerned about reports that a large number of bills were sent to the Senate Rules Committee, where they are likely dead. He suggested by could be a byproduct of the new split Senate.

_ said bipartisan politics likely will be a factor in the debate over lawsuit reform, casting doubt on any substantial changes. He said any tort reform bill should balance protections for business with the right of the people to go to court to address grievances.