OKLAHOMA CITY - An analysis by the Senate Fiscal Staff indicates that public education was the biggest casualty of Governor Keating's last minute veto spree this year, accounting for almost two-thirds of the funding vetoed by the State Chief Executive.
"I'd like to say the findings were unexpected, but in light of Governor Keating's consistently dismal track record on public education, I'm not surprised at all," said Senator Cal Hobson, Senate Appropriations Committee Vice-chairman, who requested the fiscal analysis.
"The Governor has made it clear he is no fan of public education, and his actions demonstrate that he will do anything he can to derail the progress our public schools have made in recent years."
According to the Senate Fiscal Staff calculations, approximately $17 million of education funding was vetoed by Governor Keating this year, accounting for 63 percent of the veto funding total.
"If your favorite veto target is education, I'd say you're swinging your budget ax in the wrong direction, at least as far as the majority of Oklahomans are concerned. It illustrates just how out of touch Governor Keating is with mainstream Oklahoma," said Senator Hobson.
"I look at this as a veto report card because it reflects the Governor's priorities and his performance. In light of his education and public safety vetoes, I'd say Governor Keating deserves a big fat "F" for his veto efforts this year."
This isn't the first time education has felt the sting of Governor Keating's veto ax. Last year as well, the largest portion of vetoed funds --some 44 percent-- came from education.
"At this rate, Governor Keating will go down as the most anti-education governor in Oklahoma history. I think it's pretty safe to say that he already holds that distinction right now. It's certainly his title to lose," said Senator Hobson.
The funding distribution of vetoes from the 1996 session is as follows:
Vetoed Funding By Categories
Education................................$17,273,145 or 63.0 percent
Gov't and Transportation...............$ 3,157,022 or 11.5 percent
Health Services............................$ 1,450,141 or 5.3 percent
Social Services................................. $ 90,057 or .3 percent
Natural Resources.........................$ 2,641,498 or 9.6 percent
Public Safety and Judiciary.............$ 2,784,732 or 10.2 percent
TOTAL.....................................$27,396,595 or 100 percent
"The public schools have been Governor Keating's favorite whipping boy, there's no question about it. The Governor may think that by beating up on the schools and teachers, he's winning a few political points with the radical right, but what he's really doing is impeding Oklahoma's economic development efforts and endangering the future of our children," said Senator Hobson.
The Lexington legislator also noted that public safety was the second biggest veto loser, accounting for more than 10 percent of the vetoed funding.
"For someone who advertises himself as a crime-fighter by trade, Governor Keating's record on public safety sure hasn't lived up to the rhetoric in his press releases. You can't claim to be 'Mr. Law and Order' at the same time you're vetoing funding that helps the real crime fighters do their jobs," said Senator Hobson.
Even though the Governor has repeatedly spoken out in favor of swift justice, he vetoed funding for the Attorney General and Indigent Defense System that would have expedited the death penalty process.
The Governor has repeatedly said his vetoes were designed to curb "irresponsible spending."
"That's a good sound bite, but it doesn't withstand a truth test. When you get down to specifics and see that the biggest veto casualties were education and public safety, it's pretty obvious that the only one who has been irresponsible is Governor Keating," said Senator Hobson.