Oklahoma governor vetoes budget bills; Legislature overrides

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed several key budget bills on Wednesday, setting up a showdown with lawmakers in his own party who quickly voted to override him.

Stitt vetoed four separate budget bills, including the general appropriations bill that outlines the Legislature's $7.7 billion spending plan. The other bills temporarily divert payments to the state’s public pension systems and to a fund for road and bridge improvements.

The Republican-led House and Senate quickly overrode the governor's veto of all four bills.

The funds being diverted from the pension systems are additional payments the state has been making to improve their solvency, and the plan is to repay the diverted funds once the economy rebounds.

“This budget was created behind closed doors, without meaningful input or consultation from the executive branch," Stitt said in a statement. “This proposed budget does not reflect the values of Oklahoma or the clear directive voters gave elected officials at the ballot box of living within our means and making hard decisions when times get tough."

Stitt criticized lawmakers for stabilizing the budget with one-time funds that won't be available next year.

House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Kevin Wallace said the governor’s key budget negotiator walked out of discussions with lawmakers in March after they wouldn’t agree to some of the governor’s budget demands.

House and Senate leaders said without tapping the funds going to the pension and road and bridge program, cuts to public schools would have been much deeper than the 2.5% cut included in the Legislature's budget package.

“The deep education funding cuts the governor’s vetoes cause are unnecessary and unacceptable, as is his false rhetoric about the bills’ effect on the transportation and retirement systems," House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tempore said in a joint statement.

Separately on Wednesday, the Oklahoma Senate approved a bill that would increase a fee that hospitals pay from 2.5% to 4% that would generate about $134 million annually to help fund most of the state's share of a Medicaid expansion.

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