Former Governor talks about budget battles

Former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating spoke with Phil Cross about the state's budget on Thursday June 1, 2017 (KOKH)

There was no love lost in the final hours of the legislative session as lawmakers stopped short of shouting expletives in the final debate that capped the final weeks of partisan battles.

“Partisanship is healthy,” former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating told FOX 25 in a discussion about the legislative session.

During his time in the Oklahoma Legislature he was once the leader of the then minority party and went on to be a Republican governor with a legislature fully controlled by the Democratic party.

“I was at the table because I vetoed 302 of their bills, all sustained by the simple group of Republicans,” Keating said of working with an opposing party.

Keating says during his administration he attempted to do away with the state income tax and move to a service based tax base. That idea that was revived this year, but again failed to pass.

Keating believes credit should be given to the leadership in the House, Senate and Governor’s office for getting a balanced budget passed, however he said opportunities were missed in part due the minority party wasn't brought into the discussion sooner.

“What they need to do is sit down together and work it through,” Keating told FOX 25, “The Democrats aren't going to win all the votes, the Republicans may not win all the votes if the public is on the other side, but compromise and conversation is essential for public policy.”

Keating believes one of the biggest missed opportunities during this and past sessions was not analyzing ways to cut government spending.

“What the legislature needs to do is bring a scalpel to the process.”

Keating supports consolidating school districts and administrations. That idea has been politically toxis in years past, but Keating says small towns could keep their schools even if the state moved to a county-wide administration system.

He also says spending on Medicaid has dramatically increased since his time in the Governor’s office.

“We need to go back and determine whether or not people on Medicaid should be if you're able bodied and working you should not be a Medicaid patient unless you are very, very poor or unless you are disabled mentally or physically.”

Keating also believes lawmakers should look at duplicative services and consolidate agencies that provide the same services. However, making any of those changes will require cooperation and compromise.

The reality is if the USS Oklahoma goes down we all go down together,” Keating said, “And the last people laughing are the Texans so everybody needs to get together and work this out.”

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