Oklahoma Legislature Overrides Stitt's Budget Vetoes

May 13, 2020

Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

Late Wednesday afternoon, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed lawmakers' $7.7 billion budget in its entirety, along with bills temporarily reallocating nearly $300 million in apportioned dollars to public schools.

By 10 p.m., lawmakers voted to override Stitt's vetoes of all four bills.

"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. Instead, Senate Bill 1922 reflects misguided policies that conservative republicans have spent the past decade reversing," Stitt said in a statement announcing his veto of the budget bill.

House and Senate budget leaders pushed back against Stitt's claims. Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Thompson said the budget protects core services Oklahomans demand like public safety and education.

"I beg to differ with the governor, but Senate Bill 1922 represents our constituents and the core values of Oklahoma," Thompson said.

House Appropriations and Budget Chair Kevin Wallace said he is willing to make cuts when conditions warrant them.

"But today is not the time that we need to be making the cuts. And absolutely, for all the steps we’ve taken forward, with a quick stroke of the pen, one person believes that they can right the ship because they’re a CEO of the state?" Wallace said.

Stitt also repeated a claim the budget was developed without input from the executive branch.

Thompson and Wallace said Stitt was not involved in budget negotiations and his representative, Budget Secretary Mike Mazzei, did not communicate well with the governor about their discussions.

Earlier on Wednesday, Stitt vetoed three three budget bills that represent $292 million for public schools next fiscal year. Stitt said earlier this week he would veto two of the measures, which reallocate dollars apportioned to teacher, police and firefighter pension systems.

Lawmakers said those contributions are above and beyond what’s required to keep getting payments to retirees.

The other apportionment bill Stitt vetoed would take money that usually goes to a highway and bridge maintenance fund, but a separate bill lets the transportation department issue bonds to replace the lost funding.

Lawmakers said Stitt's vetoes would have meant a 12% cut to the State Department of Education.

"The Legislature stood united to override the deep cuts these disappointing vetoes would have caused to our shared priority of public education. While we did not take it lightly, we strongly agreed the Legislature’s coequal constitutional powers had to be exercised to correct and override the governor on this matter." House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) said in a statement.

The House Democratic caucus voted against the budget bills but pledged to back the override effort to support education.

Senate Democrats voted against the veto override on SB1922 and the bills reallocating pension system contributions, but they voted for the bill reallocating road and bridge funds.

Updated May 14, 11:18 a.m. with information about the legislature's actions Wednesday night and new statements from lawmakers.