The Oklahoma Senate will move to approve an emergency appropriation for the State Ethics Commission when it reconvenes in February, according to the leader of the Senate. The action is designed to offset the negative impact of a funding veto handed down by Governor Keating in May.
"Because of Governor Keating's veto, the ethics commission can't do the job it is constitutionally required to do," said Senator Stratton Taylor, President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma Senate. "We have to provide it with the resources it needs to be the watchdog of state government.
"A supplemental appropriation may not repair all of the damage caused by Governor Keating's veto, but it will be a step in the right direction."
Governor Keating used his veto pen to cut approximately $28,000 from the ethics budget at the end of this year's legislative session, stating in his veto message that "excess funds must be preserved for future budgetary needs."
"I don't consider the ethics commission to be 'excess,' but apparently Governor Keating thinks differently. I think the ethics panel is vital and should be treated as such in state budget matters," said Senator Taylor.
The Governor's veto has strained the ethics commission during its busiest time, an election year, forcing it to reduce its only full-time investigator to part-time status.
"You can't have an effective watchdog without any teeth. Unfortunately, because of Governor Keating's veto, that's all the citizens have right now," said Senator Taylor.
At a recent meeting of the commission, outgoing member Jerald Walker took the Governor to task for the ethics veto, saying "as a Republican, I want to say that the veto was especially dumb and thoughtless."
The Senate leader agrees.
"Governor Keating has said ethics is a priority in his administration, yet he cut the one entity responsible for overseeing the conduct of state officials," said Senator Taylor.
"It's pretty tough to assume the high ground on ethics when you issue a veto that neuters the watchdog of government."
The ethics commission wasn't the only oversight agency to be cut by Governor Keating's veto pen. The state auditor and the attorney general both received reduced budgets at the Governor's order.
The Claremore legislator said the Senate will be looking at other agencies to determine if they need supplemental appropriations as well.
"If Governor Keating's vetoes have damaged oversight functions of other agencies or hindered their ability to ensure public accountability, we'll do what we can to repair the damage.
"Our task in the coming weeks will be to determine which agencies have suffered the most damage from the Governor's veto pen and act accordingly when we reconvene in February," said Senator Taylor.