Gov. Stitt Claims Deal Was Broken, Won't Sign Bill To Fill Budget Shortfall
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt's budget battle with the legislature continued Thursday when he held a press conference panning House of Representatives leadership.
A defiant Stitt insisted he had a deal with state lawmakers to fully fund the government for the next three months.
"I'm committed to standing by that deal," Stitt said. "House leadership wanted to use this time to play Washington D.C. politics."
At issue is the Digital Transformation Fund, which is aimed at improving public access to government services using modern technology. On Monday, the legislature passed bills three to fund the government, except for the fund.
"That's not really the point," Stitt said. "The point is we had an agreement to fully fund April, May and June and that agreement was broken."
The cut is equivalent to less than $1 million for the fund that contains more than $8 million. It's unclear what the fund has actually been used for.
Lawmakers will likely have to re-convene next week to pass new legislation if Stitt doesn't sign off on the third measure they passed, Senate Bill 199, which would have taken $302.3 million from the state's Rain Day Fund to fill the rest of the budget hole for this fiscal year.
UPDATE: In a statement late on Thursday, House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City) responded to Stitt's comments:
"The House and Senate remain united by our actions to swiftly stabilize the budget, and call on the governor to finish the job," McCall said. "Further legislative action is not needed when a stabilized budget is already on the governor’s desk. There is no benefit to having the budget certainty the Legislature swiftly provided jeopardized because of opposition to a noncritical issue representing 0.003% of the budget. This is especially true when the Legislature just gave the governor authority to allocate $50 million at his discretion during his catastrophic health emergency declaration."
"If there ever was a ‘rainy day’ in Oklahoma it would surely be during the middle of a catastrophic health emergency that has wrecked our economy," Treat said. "We have the savings to weather this storm in the short-term. That’s why the Legislature by overwhelming margins in both the House and Senate took steps to prevent cuts to core state services by accessing state savings."