After hashing out budget details in February, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt was dealt a stealth blow by state legislators who opted to cut funding to his digital transformation plans at the last minute. According to inside sources in the budget negotiation process, Oklahoma House Republican leaders were upset by the governor’s dismissal of their recommendation to appoint a broadband oversight council. There is speculation that the 11th hour cut was a retaliation ploy, reports The Oklahoman.
“This is about the budget and our job, as legislators, to provide oversight and accountability for how tax dollars are used,” stated House Speaker Charles McCall. “As I’ve told the governor, we’re happy to move forward with the digital fund once we have more transparency into what it is doing and his plan for it. It is our duty to oversee tax dollars, and that’s what we were doing when we withheld $247,000 of the $15 million so further talks would occur.”
“This is politics with the House leadership,” Stitt retorted. “You can ask them why that happened, but I went right up to the Speaker’s office and I said ‘Hey, what’s the deal?’” During his campaign, Stitt emphasized the need for improving and extending broadband access across the state and had counted on the funding to further this goal.
The legislature was ready to meet to approve bills to address a $416 million revenue gaps with an influx of $500 million from the state’s savings accounts. McCall and his faction claimed that the last minute move was an attempt to force more discussion about installing a broadband committee. The Oklahoman commented that the state’s Secretary of Digital Transformation, David Ostrowe, did not support McCall’s bill. “As far as transparency, we are probably overly transparent, not only in how we are moving money but how we are doing projects,” Ostrowe said. The unnamed source went further, saying that an angry Stitt called McCall “stupid.”