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Legislative Republicans should end their hypocrisy and support a supplemental appropriations bill that would deliver emergency funding to heating assistance, nursing home inspectors, health care for the elderly and a variety of other pressing needs, according to the leader of the Oklahoma State Senate.
Senator Stratton Taylor noted that despite their protests about the structure of the latest supplemental appropriation bill, state records show that Gov. Keating and legislative Republicans have consistently supported multiple appropriation, emergency budget bills since Keating took office six years ago.
"Given their history on this issue, I think the behavior of Republican legislators is pretty hypocritical. They could probably demand a lot more public respect if they were a little more honest," said Senator Taylor.
In spite of that documented record of support, this year House and Senate Republicans voted to block emergency funding for heating assistance, nursing home inspectors and other needs, claiming that it was unconstitutional to place multiple agency appropriations in a single piece of legislation. Gov. Keating has echoed that claim in his support of legislative Republicans.
"There is no question that this type of legislation is constitutional and conforms with court rulings on appropriation bills," said Senator Taylor. "If Republican legislators really felt that there was a legitimate constitutional concern, they would have voted against every single emergency budget bill that came across their desks, but they haven't done that. They just manufactured the constitutional question this year because it sounded a lot better than the real reason for their opposition - politics."
Since 1994, the Legislature has approved a supplemental budget bill containing multiple appropriations each year. The vast majority of House and Senate Republicans have voted for those bills, often giving the legislation unanimous support.
The only exception was in 1999 when House Republicans voted against a general appropriations bill that contained emergency funding. Their concern wasn't the multiple appropriation nature of the measure, however. They cited other reasons instead.
For his part, Gov. Keating has signed every multi-appropriation, emergency funding bill delivered to his desk during his tenure in office. He has never raised a concern about the measures' constitutionality.
"The Republicans killed emergency funding for nursing home inspections, heating assistance, health care for the elderly, winter storm damage repair and a variety of others pressing needs, and now they're trying to construct a plausible defense for what is basically an indefensible vote. They wanted to show off and flex their muscles, without worrying about the elderly or disabled Oklahomans that would be hurt by their behavior," said Senator Taylor.
"I know they're telling a different story in their home districts, but it's not the real story."
Because the House and Senate Republicans successfully blocked the emergency clause on the supplemental appropriation bill, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority is considering cuts to health care for children and the elderly, and the schools for the blind and deaf are preparing to close their doors.
HB 1524 would allocate $66.6 million in emergency funding to a variety of needs. They include: