Stitt to Veto Budget Bills Redirecting Pension Funds to Public Schools for a Year

May 11, 2020

Credit Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said Monday he will veto budget bills taking dollars apportioned to the state’s teacher, law enforcement and firefighter pension systems next year.

House Bills 2741 and 2742 use the apportioned dollars to provide $112 million for public schools, a move that helps hold the State Department of Education's budget cut to 2.5% as other agencies take cuts of up to 4%.

Stitt said the head of the teacher’s retirement system told him it is already down $1 billion from June 2019.

"Raiding state pension funds to balance the budget is, unfortunately, nothing new in this building, but just last year, the legislature was talking about how important it was to protect pensions, even during a recession," Stitt said.

Stitt said he has not decided whether he’ll sign the rest of the budget bills lawmakers sent to him, which he must do by Wednesday.

"I’m only going to sign a budget that’s good for Oklahomans and good for Oklahoma taxpayers, but the legislature can always override it. They can always override the veto, which that’s what they’re threatening to do, but that’s fine. They’ll have to answer to Oklahomans why they did these certain things in the budget," Stitt said.

Stitt said lawmakers’ spending plan uses $939 million in one-time funds, which will be a problem with a potential $1.7 billion shortfall for fiscal year 2022.

Lawmakers accuse Stitt of bailing on budget negotiations.