Oklahoma lawmakers criticize Gov. Kevin Stitt, override vetoes

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The Oklahoma Legislature on Friday responded to Gov. Kevin Stitt's criticism of key parts of the state budget and accusations that the spending plan was crafted through "backroom deals" by overriding a slate of the governor's vetoes.

Some GOP lawmakers wore grins on their faces and insulted the governor and his administration as they finished this year's regular legislative session by overriding six of Stitt's vetoes.

Related: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoes key parts of $9.8B state budget, calls special session

The Legislature overturned Stitt's vetoes of a bill intended to streamline how the state works with tribal courts to enforce driving laws and another that would require his appointed Cabinet secretaries and agency heads to file financial disclosure forms.

But in an unexpected twist, the House punted on attempting to override the governor's vetoes on two tax relief policies that Stitt had dismissed as inadequate for Oklahoma families.

House Speaker Charles McCall wants to expand special session to encompass all tax relief options

House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said his members are ready to take up tax reform, but they're not doing it for the governor. Legislators work for the people of Oklahoma, not Stitt, he said.

McCall said he was "disappointed" and "appalled" at Stitt's accusations that the Legislature was pandering to special interests and making "backroom deals."

More: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signs nation's strictest abortion ban. It starts immediately

House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, right, speaks with Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, as the House of Representatives met Friday during the final day of the legislative session at the state Capitol.
House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, right, speaks with Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, as the House of Representatives met Friday during the final day of the legislative session at the state Capitol.

"House Republicans absolutely want the most inflation relief possible in any session, regular or special," McCall said. "We will get Oklahomans the most relief possible because it's the right thing to do, not because of the governor's dishonest, disrespectful demands."

Despite the Senate successfully voting to override Stitt's veto on a bill to eliminate the 1.25% vehicle sales tax, the House unanimously opposed that override and another that would send one-time direct payments of $75 to every taxpayer.

Top House lawmakers sort of embraced the governor's call for a special session on tax reform on June 13. Specifically, Stitt asked the Legislature to eliminate the state's 4.5% tax on grocery sales and cut individual income taxes.

"Let's roll up our sleeves and move ahead with tax relief," said House Appropriations Chairman Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston.

McCall said he plans to amend the Legislature's call for a special session, which can be done with support from two-thirds of both chambers, to include all tax relief options, not just what Stitt is requesting.

He also called Stitt's set date for the special session "punitive" because it will occur mere weeks before 18 House Republicans have primary elections. Stitt has a primary election this year, it's expected to be noncompetitive.

"We are going to stay in charge of this conversation and this issue because we are the ones who have been leading on it," McCall said, noting the House had proposed the tax relief proposals the governor now is touting.

McCall also disputed Stitt's complaints that he was left out of the budget process.

Stitt used the Legislature's sustained vetoes as a chance to once again tout his tax relief plan.

He said he looks forward to working with the Legislature come June 13.

“Due to record inflation, Oklahomans are facing sky-high prices for everything from groceries to gas and they need real relief now," he said in a statement. "Under my inflation relief plan, families would start saving money right away for a total of $453 each year."

More: Oklahoma's Gov. Stitt signs bill restricting school bathrooms to birth sex, effective immediately

What vetoes by Gov. Kevin Stitt did the Legislature override?

The Oklahoma Legislature overturned six of the governor's vetoes, with McCall saying he felt like the bills were important pieces of policy.

Under the legislative-approved bills, Stitt's appointed Cabinet secretaries and state agency heads will have to file financial disclosure forms just like state elected officials.

Although Stitt said Senate Bill 1695 didn't go far enough to require appointed state officials to file financial disclosure forms, Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, said the bill was a start to increasing transparency from the executive branch.

Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, holds a container of mayonnaise as the House of Representatives meets Friday during the final day of the legislative session.
Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, holds a container of mayonnaise as the House of Representatives meets Friday during the final day of the legislative session.

Tribal leaders praised the Legislature's veto override of House Bill 3501 that tells Oklahoma's Public Safety Department to take into account tribal court convictions when determining driving privileges.

Stitt had previously called the bill that passed both chambers with overwhelming support a "wolf in sheep's clothing."

As the House was preparing to override Stitt's veto of the bill intended to streamline how the state works with tribal courts to enforce driving laws, Martinez was highly critical of Stitt's rocky relationship with Oklahoma's tribes.

"With the governor vetoing this important bill, would it be safe to make the assumption that his racist and hateful behavior toward the important tribes of this state is getting in the way of good public policy to protect Oklahomans?" Martinez asked of the bill's author.

Martinez later said he stood by his comments. He also accused the governor of throwing a temper tantrum and rejecting sound policy proposals because of his strong emotions on tribal issues.

Stitt's office responded, saying: "Personal insults will never sway the governor from doing what he think is best for all 4 million Oklahomans."

Stitt has said repeatedly that the state’s ability to seek justice is hampered by its lack of jurisdiction on tribal lands, comments he also made in his veto letter for HB 3501.

As the House was voting on the override of the bill, Stitt told reporters he hoped lawmakers weren't taking action to just to spite him.

"I sure hope that people aren't passing bad laws to be vindictive," Stitt said. "That would be very, very disappointing. I think if Oklahomans knew that they would be extremely frustrated."

The Muscogee Nation said HB 3501 will improve public safety by recognizing tribal court convictions.

"We are so grateful to the legislators who stood up today to protect all Oklahomans and help keep our roadways safe," Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton said in a new release.

The Legislature overturned the governor's line-item veto of $7.7 million for a per diem increase for employees at two Oklahoma private prisons. Lawmakers also overturned a veto on a bill to create a Route 66 Commission that Stitt said was duplicative.

Contributing: Hogan Gore, The Oklahoman

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma lawmakers override some Stitt vetoes, but put off tax reform