In announcing their legislative budget agreement this week, top lawmakers promised legislation to make sure Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration is transparent with how it spends federal COVID-19 relief money.
The state has gotten an estimated $1.2 billion from Congress so far.
If that sounded like a political shot across Stitt’s bow, it was, but it’s also a good idea.
If the bill comes to the governor’s desk, he has three choices: Sign and comply with it or veto it and comply with what it would have required or veto it and explain why he isn’t complying with it. All options are awkward in their own way.
In case you missed it, the Republicans who run the legislative branch of state government and the Republican who runs the executive branch of government are grumbling about each other in public and private. For example, legislators announced a budget agreement Monday without the governor’s agreement.
That tension’s really not all that unusual. We’ve long maintained that there were much deeper divisions in state government than partisanship, and the friction between the Legislature and the governor’s office is notorious and historic, as a couple of impeached governors learned the hard way.
We aren’t predicting anything that drastic but there is a healthy friction at work, and in this case, we hope it causes something that ought to happen anyway: a clear report of how Oklahoma is going to use its share of COVID-19 relief money. While they’re at it, we hope the Legislature makes sure local relief money being sent to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County and Tulsa County is reported publicly in detail too.
Congress didn’t do the idea of openness in government any good by essentially ignoring the legislative process in the 50 states when it allocated billions in COVID-19 relief money to the states. A full public debate on how to use that much money is always a good thing, and you’re more likely to get that if it has to be appropriated.
But it doesn’t. If the Legislature follows through on this promise, we’ll get to see what Gov. Stitt did with it anyway.