Opinion: Is It Time to Think About Impeaching Gov Fallin?
With the news of Gov. Fallin vetoing the budget that came out of the special session a few days ago, there were a lot of livid people across the state. I think many were faced with one primary lingering question including some elected officials: Is it time to talk about impeaching the governor of Oklahoma? If you live in the state of Oklahoma, you may be aware of the special session that has been dragging on for weeks. Lawmakers, including Governor Fallin, appear to be hell-bent on raising taxes. It became blatantly obvious that the legislature didn't have the appetite to raise the majority of those taxes despite arm-twisting by the governor and others. After weeks of going back and forth, the budget deal that was produced was an imperfect compromise. The bill passed both chambers and then headed to the governor's mansion for her signature. The governor responded to the bill by vetoing large portions of it which sent shockwaves of frustration across oklahoma. Is this the breaking point for lawmakers? How did this bill come about? I'm told by sources, this bill came to fruition with the governor's approval. I'm also told she practically sat at the table while this plan was hashed out. So you could imagine the dismay that swept the capital when the governor vetoed large portions of the bill. The governor is no stranger to promising lawmakers to sign legislation then reneging on that promise seemingly for no real reason. Other times she's vetoed stacks of legislation simply because some other bill she was hoping to pass hadn't reached her desk. She also pushed for lawmakers to pass an unconstitutional tax on cigarettes, which was immediately shot down by the supreme court. This has been the story of her leadership throughout her tenor as governor, and we are now at an impasse concering the future of Oklahoma. Due to the continued unstable nature of the governor throughout this process, the question remains: Is it time to talk about impeachment? Under the Oklahoma Constitution, "The Governor and other elective state officers, including the Justices of the Supreme Court, shall be liable and subject to impeachment for wilful neglect of duty, corruption in office, habitual drunkenness, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude committed while in office." The governor has demonstrated the failure to lead and in turn, has lost the confidence of the people of Oklahoma, and its lawmakers, although some of them won't admit it. I don't believe that it's an absurd statement to say that Gov Fallin has failed to lead the people of Oklahoma, and now, when we have needed her leadership most, has failed to bring what is necessary to the table. In that respect, I don't think it's imprudent to look at impeachment seriously.
Section VIII-1: Officers subject to impeachment - Grounds - Suspension from office upon felony conviction - Reinstatement - Temporary judges.
The Governor and other elective state officers, including the Justices of the Supreme Court, shall be liable and subject to impeachment for wilful neglect of duty, corruption in office, habitual drunkenness, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude committed while in office.
I don't expect lawmakers to start the drum beats of impeachment anytime soon. I understand a lot of what encompasses impeachment is political will. I'm asking voters to take a look at this. Maybe it's time to sit down with your representative and let him or her know what your thoughts are concerning Gov Fallin. With the conclusion of the special session, lawmakers won't be able to override the governor. They will, however, be forced to go back to the capital and be politically held hostage, so to speak, until they produce a result that will gut the OKGOP in the state. Sources in the legislature are saying that the governor is forcing the Republican party in Oklahoma to reject its identity. When constituents look at lawmakers in Oklahoma, and they don't see their values reflected in those elected, will they say to themselves: "Whats the point in voting for Republicans?". Perhaps, this is what makes the Governor's actions so dumbfounding. Will this break the party's platform? Does she want them to break tax pledges, and perpetually force them to go back on all they campaigned to do? Time will tell. If the OKGOP becomes the party of taxes, they can kiss their majorities goodbye.
"We are surprised by the governor’s veto. The governor’s office was involved in the negotiation of the revised budget agreement, but did not indicate the agreement was insufficient and would be vetoed. The revised budget agreement was not the Senate’s first choice to resolve the budget crisis but it was the only option after the House showed it was not able to meet the constitutional standards of raising revenue. Bringing the Legislature back into special session at this point seems like a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. The governor’s veto doesn’t help Oklahoma thrive, it only serves to throw our budget further into chaos.”
Statement from House Speaker McCall:
"The governor's line-item veto of House Bill 1019X is a complete reversal of her promise to the Legislature and, frankly, to the people of Oklahoma. Her actions alone create uncertainty in Oklahoma for healthcare services, business investment, job creation and spending, all of which are economic drivers for our state.”
Statement from the governor on revising the budget:
Governor Mary Fallin Vetoes Most of Revised Budget Bill, Preserves Funding for Core Health, Human Services
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin this evening vetoed most of the revised budget bill approved by legislators in special session. She kept intact parts of the bill that temporarily preserve funding for key health and hSection VIII-1: Officers subject to impeachment - Grounds - Suspension from office upon felony conviction - Reinstatement - Temporary judges.The Governor and other elective state officers, including the Justices of the Supreme Court, shall be liable and subject to impeachment for wilful neglect of duty, corruption in office, habitual drunkenness, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude committed while in office human services until lawmakers return in another special session to approve long-term funding solutions.
Lawmakers failed to act on other requests the governor made in her call for a special session, such as addressing a long-term solution to continuing budget shortfalls; the need for more consolidation and other efficiencies in all areas of state government; clarifying intended exemptions to the new 1.25 percent sales tax on vehicles; and a pay increase for K-12 public school teachers.
The governor vetoed all but five of the 170 sections contained in House Bill 1019X, which was passed earlier in the day by the state Senate and approved earlier this week by the House of Representatives.
“House Bill 1019X does not provide a long-term solution to the re-occurring budget deficits, and within three months we will come back facing an estimated $600 million shortfall,” she said.
Fallin said her action results in amending the general appropriations bill approved in May by lawmakers during the regular legislative session.
“This will preserve a safety net for core health and human services until legislators come back for a second special session, which I intend to call in the near future,” said Fallin.
Fallin’s action keeps intact a $30 million emergency appropriation to the Department of Health, which will allow the agency to make its next payroll and be funded without cuts through the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30.
Her action will provide funding for the short term for three health care agencies that were facing severe cuts because they were to receive most of the $215 million earmarked in a proposed cigarette cessation fee, which was struck down as unconstitutional earlier this year. The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Department of Human Services and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority were facing cuts unless revisions were made in the current fiscal year budget.
“My action avoids immediate health and human services cuts and provides time for legislators to come back and approve revenue proposals that can provide a permanent fix,” Fallin said.
“As governor, I would like nothing more than to adequately fund agencies. The constant budget crisis has put us in survival mode. I want us to thrive. We will thrive when we can adequately and consistently fund our core services. That will happen when we find sustainable and predictable revenue sources.”
Fallin said she vetoed most of HB 1019X because it came perilously close to using most of the state’s available one-time funds in various accounts and drawing down on available savings in the Rainy Day Fund. Signing the measure would have left the state with few available funds to deal with an estimated shortfall of more than $600 million in the next regular legislative session, which begins in February.
The governor’s action will result in doing away with $60 million in cuts to state agencies and using $60 million from revolving funds, as called for in HB 1019X. The measure also called for using more than half of the state’s $83 million in cash reserves; a smaller amount will be used as a result of the governor’s line-item veto.
“Our inability to find a long-term solution to our budget problem puts our citizens and our economy at risk,” said Fallin. “We cannot give up. We must find solutions. Our citizens want a state government that works for them. They are tired of gamesmanship and want leadership. As difficult as it might be to return to the state Capitol, we must do so. As governor, I pledge, as I have done throughout this difficult period, to work with the Legislature. We came so close, with over 70 percent of the House and over 75 percent of the Senate voting for a viable budget plan.
“Some legislative leaders have stated that revenue measures will be taken up in February when lawmakers return in regular session,” Fallin said. “But I am very skeptical because next year is an election year and the pressure not to do anything will be greater.
“We must find sustainable, predictable recurring revenue to fund our core services and get us out of the constant crisis. Let’s finish our work for the sake of our great state and our hardworking people. I love this state and her people, and I will continue to work tirelessly with the Legislature for them.”