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‘It’s painful to watch:’ Former governors criticize state lawmakers

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Two men who ran the state say it's "embarrassing" watching the legislature struggle to pass the budget, as Oklahoma's emergency reserve fund hit empty this week.

Former governors David Walters and Frank Keating criticized lawmakers Friday afternoon, ahead of an appearance on Flashpoint Sunday.

"It's painful to watch this disassembly of these institutions and knowing that these children aren't getting the education," said Walters, a Democrat who served a term in the early 90s.

"Oh it's inexcusable," agreed Keating, a Republican who served two terms after Walters. "You cannot educate people four days a week and expect the state to attract business and industry with people who can't write a business memo or can't write a literate English sentence and this is just nuts."

Gov. Mary Fallin called on lawmakers to "get down to business" Thursday, though she defended the Secretary of Finance's decision to take money from the Rainy Day Fund to keep the state running.

Walters and Keating said "it's about time" to kick lawmakers into gear, as they stare down a nearly $900 million budget shortfall.

"I'm sorry to say there's not going to be any increases in revenues this year," said Walters. "There's no will in this legislature to pass this. I think you're going to have to change the legislature to make that work."

"When I became Governor I used to say the Democrats have controlled this place since 1907 and they brought us all the way to 45th
in per capita income, isn't it time to throw them all out?" Keating said. "And they did! Well now the Republicans are in charge. What have you done?
And I think that question will be asked and some of the questions are not going to be real good. Get the best men and women of both parties to run and to serve, you'll solve the problems. People who are not so ideologically driven, people who love Oklahoma first."

The two former governors split a bit on party lines when discussing solutions.

Walters would like to see the state crack down on tax credits for oil and gas and is wary of cutting the income tax.

Keating, on the other hand, would rather see the income tax eliminated and tax credits for the wind industry reined in.

But both say there is a need for compromise and people who will work together to get things done.

"The voters can fix this," Walters said. "I'm not sure this current legislature can. I would say that to Oklahomans, what have you got to lose? Why do you keep voting for these overwhelming majorities in the legislature? And why not elect those people that stand up and say we want to properly fund education?"

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