Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt on Monday said he intends to veto part of a state budget that he says sacrifices retirement funding for teachers and other state employees.
The governor said the Legislature traded away funding for the retirement funds to fund state operations and balance the budget. Stitt says that’s unacceptable and that he will veto those two bills.
"I will not play a part in harming Oklahoma’s teachers," Stitt said. "I want Oklahomans to know I am vetoing House Bill 2741 and House Bill 2742 which would rob from our teachers’ retirement fund, our law enforcement retirement fund and our firefighters’ retirement fund."
The governor said the head of the Teacher’s Retirement System reported the fund has decreased $1 billion since mid-2019.
"If we closed the books today, the funded ratio on a market basis would drop from 72.3% to around 64%," Stitt said.
The governor said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll approve the rest of the Legislature’s spending bills. He has until Wednesday night to decide whether he will veto more bills.
Legislative leaders said they have the votes necessary to override any veto by the governor.
Stitt accused legislators of cutting his office out of the process, but lawmakers have said Stitt's lack of transparency over how he plans to spend federal relief funding has been a barrier in the process.
Stitt discussed the budget uncertainty while championing the state’s response to COVID-19.
He said Oklahoma’s infection rates are very low compared to other states and that data suggests the state is ready to move to Phase 2 of his Open Up and Recover Safely (OURS) plan on Friday. Phase 2 includes the reopening of bars, funerals, weddings and organized sports activities.
Oklahoma performed 25,501 tests last week and still has a way to go to reach Stitt's ambitious goal of completing 90,000 tests by the end of May. His plan has also caused the state Department of Health to ask drive thru testing sites to scale back testing to allow overwhelmed labs to catch up. The guidance says testing will be limited until Thursday solely for those who have symptoms or have been in conatct with someone who has contracted COVID-19.
Stitt says Oklahoma is moving ahead with testing 42,000 residents and staff at nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the state.
Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur said the state plans to test all 2,700 employees of Seaboard Foods in Guymon by the end of the week. The meat processing plant experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 in recent weeks. Arthur says there are still 90 active cases, while 116 plant employees have since recovered.
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