OKLAHOMA CITY - With only seven weeks remaining in the 2001 legislative session, Senate Appropriations Chairman Kelly Haney says he is still working to restore critically needed funding to agencies such as Agriculture, Commerce and the Oklahoma Arts Council. That's after Governor Keating vetoed budgets for those agencies.
"Again, I want to state that I agree with the Governor in his desire to do a more thorough examination of some agencies to eliminate waste. But the funding we appropriate to Agriculture, Commerce and the Oklahoma Arts Council has a direct impact on our economy and our quality of life," said Senator Haney.
For example Senator Haney said unless funding is restored to the Department of Agriculture, they would cease to function as of July 1. That's often a critical time for rural fire departments. Those operations are funded through the Department of Agriculture.
"From July through September last year, we lost 30 thousand acres due to fires in rural Oklahoma. But can you imagine what that loss would have been without our rural fire fighters? It is impossible to estimate how many lives would have been lost or how much more property would have been destroyed if not for those rural fire departments," said Haney.
The Department of Agriculture provided nearly 2 million dollars for operational grants and 1.5 million for equipment grants for rural fire departments statewide last year.
"Likewise, the Department of Commerce provides funding for crucial programs throughout Oklahoma, and administers such things as Quality Jobs, which has helped create well over a hundred-thousand jobs in our state. At a time when the entire nation is concerned about the economy, the need for these programs has never been greater," noted Senator Haney.
Senator Haney said he's heard from Oklahomans across the state who were concerned about the impact the budget vetoes would have. He said he's tried to reassure them that he would make every effort to ensure those agencies would be funded come July 1.
"Again, we're talking about agencies that have a direct impact on our economy. The State Arts Council served about 173 communities in Oklahoma this current budget year, but they are already out of funds. Those events are critical to our local economies," said Haney.
"The entire idea of approving those budgets midway through the session is so that agencies have an adequate amount of time to plan for the new fiscal year, a process that has been in place for over a decade. Their vetoes were completely unexpected. It means we have that much more work to do in the remaining weeks on top of approving hundreds of pieces of legislation as well as completing the final work on reapportionment. However I'm determined to make sure these vital services Oklahomans depend on are funded," said Haney.