OKLAHOMA CITY - A Senate budget leader is asking Governor Keating to explain why he vetoed a state employee severance package, noting that the Governor himself proposed and negotiated the final legislation, HB 2782.
"This was one of the main personnel reforms Governor Keating put forth in his executive budget. We worked closely with his advisers to make sure it was passed in the final days of the session. We gave him what he asked for and he vetoed it," said Senator Larry Dickerson, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and Transportation.
"I think at the very least, Governor Keating owes state employees an explanation. An apology would be appropriate as well."
Governor Keating and Finance Director Tom Daxon first proposed the severance package in February when they revealed plans to lay off hundreds of state employees. Although the Keating Administration's lay off program was not implemented, some last minute vetoes ensured that agency heads would have to terminate employees to finance a pay raise program that the Governor first supported, then refused to fund.
"I think it's pretty cold-blooded to force agency heads to lay off hard-working state employees and then veto a severance package that would have helped them make ends meet between jobs," said Senator Dickerson, who authored the pay raise bill and handled the severance legislation on the Senate floor.
"For someone who claims to want to run government like a business, Governor Keating sure is doing his best to ignore the example of the private sector. Severance packages are a way of life in private business, but the Governor apparently thinks state employees aren't good enough to deserve the same treatment."
Because of the Governor's vetoes, the Attorney General's office has already handed out a number of pink slips. Other agencies are expected to follow suit.
"Thanks to Frank Keating, these state employees are getting kicked out the door with no more than a handshake and two weeks pay to keep their families afloat. It's pretty heartless, no matter what kind of partisan spin the Governor tries to put on it.
"We've tried to work with Governor Keating in a bipartisan manner on a number of issues, but when he vetoes the same legislation that he requested, it makes it pretty tough to carry on good faith negotiations in the future."