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Henry urged to return stimulus

Henry urged to return stimulus

by: BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Friday, March 27, 2009
3/27/2009 4:06:37 AM

OKLAHOMA CITY — Sen. Randy Brogdon on Thursday called for Gov. Brad Henry to reject the $2.6 million in federal stimulus funds the state expects to receive.

"Give it all back to (President Barack) Obama and Congress," said Brogdon, R-Owasso, who is considering a run for governor. "There are too many strings attached to this plan, and we can't afford to rob our children's future in order to take care of our needs today."

Brogdon said he applauded Henry's request for legislative input but wished the governor would have consulted lawmakers before he accepted the money.

"The package is not perfect," said Henry spokesman Paul Sund. "No legislation of that magnitude is, but because it is partially financed by Oklahoma tax dollars sent to Washington, D.C., the state should do its best to bring those dollars back to Oklahoma to benefit the citizens and its economy.

"It would be shortsighted to allow Oklahoma tax dollars to be spent in other states improving their roads and bridges, for example, but that is exactly what would happen under the stimulus scenario advocated by Sen. Brogdon."

Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, said the stimulus funding was complicating the Legislature's budgeting process, but he was not in favor of returning transportation or Medicaid money.

There are some spending areas where Brogdon has a point, Coffee said.

Coffee said lawmakers are in the very early stages of writing the state's budget. Officials are expecting up to $900 million less in funds for the fiscal year 2010.

"I think that we will leave the session knowing (federal) rules are still being written on some of the stimulus money."

Lawmakers hope to adjourn a week before their May 29 deadline.

"We will have to proceed without knowing all the facts," Coffee said. "If we wait for that, we will have to be in special session to do the budget. I don't think anyone wants that."

House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, had similar comments about the stimulus money and the state budget.

"We're monitoring the federal situation, and I can't say at this point that it's any clearer as to what the federal stimulus money looks like," Benge said. "We're about to the point that we're going to have to start just writing the budget like there's not going to be stimulus dollars available so that we can move on and get the budget set for next year."

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