Lawmakers try to block money to Oklahoma Youth Expo
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
OKLAHOMA CITY - Two state legislators have filed suit seeking to block $2 million in state funding for the privately operated Oklahoma Youth Expo, the world’s largest junior livestock show.
Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, argue that money for the expo is unconstitutional for several reasons, including that there is no specific language in the state budget authorizing the spending, the expenditure would use public money for a private purpose, the money would be an illegal donation of state money and that funding for the expenditure comes from state funds which are not authorized for that use.
Their lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Oklahoma County District Court.
Much of the disagreement revolves around the differences between the state budget deal, the informal agreement between legislative leaders and Gov. Mary Fallin on how state funding should be spent, and the state budget bill, the legal vehicle authorizing spending.
Legislative leaders and Fallin’s office have previously said that $2 million for the financially troubled Oklahoma City expo was part of the budget deal, which was worked out behind closed doors during the final weeks of the legislative session. But Senate Bill 1975, the general appropriation bill approved by lawmakers in May, doesn’t specify any money for the expo.
“SB 1975 does not include a specific appropriation of $2 million for the Youth Expo,” the lawsuit says. “The measure does not even mention the Youth Expo or contain an express appropriation of public funds in any amount for the Youth Expo.”
Instead, the bill allocated money to the state Department of Agriculture to perform duties imposed on the agency by law.
Without specific language in law, the agriculture department has no authority to give money to the expo, the suit says.
State Agriculture Commissioner Jim Reese has said he plans to give the $2 million to the expo as outlines in the budget deal and that contracting with the private charity to run a youth agriculture expo is a legitimate and legal purpose for the department.