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Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt answers a question during a news conference Monday, May 11, 2020, in Oklahoma City. State health officials on Monday reported multiple new positive cases of COVID-19 and new deaths. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Published 05/12/2020 | Reading Time 2 min 21 sec 

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Gov. Kevin Stitt said Monday he plans to veto a key piece of the Republican Legislature’s budget plan, setting up a showdown with lawmakers of his own party who appear increasingly frustrated with the first-term governor.

Stitt announced at a press conference that he would veto two bills that temporarily divert about $111 million from going to various state pension funds in order to help ease cuts to public schools. The funds being diverted from the pension systems are additional payments the state has been making to improve their solvency, and the plan is to repay the diverted funds once the economy rebounds.

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“We have made great progress shoring up our retirement systems in the last few years,” Stitt said. “Now is not the time to undo that progress.”

House and Senate leaders said a veto override is one of the options they’re considering. Although Republicans have enough votes in each chamber to override the governor’s veto, neither bill passed the Senate with a veto-proof margin.

Sen. Roger Thompson, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a key architect of the Legislature’s budget plan, said he believes the Senate will “rise to the occasion” and vote to override the governor’s veto.

“If those vetoes stand, there will be a $111 million cut to public education,” Thompson warned.

The Legislature’s relationship with Stitt, a former CEO who’s never held public office before, has grown particularly contentious in recent weeks. House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Kevin Wallace said the governor’s key budget negotiator walked out of discussions with lawmakers in March after they wouldn’t agree to some of the governor’s budget demands.

House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat then sued the governor last month, asking the Supreme Court to force the governor to convene a meeting to declare a revenue failure.

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