Archive for the ‘Rep. Chris Benge’ Category

The Benge Standard (or Double Standard)

March 3, 2008

Just weeks after new House Speaker Chris Benge forced House Majority Floor Leader Greg Piatt (R-Ardmore) to make an embarrassing refund of a controversial contribution from a Texas businessman, some Capitol observers are raising questions about thousands of dollars in similar contributions Benge has received.

Benge’s third quarter 2007 ethics report shows he received 43 separate checks, totaling thousands of dollars, all on a single day, July 6, 2007. All of these checks were written by people employed by Career Technology Centers. Benge received an additional check that same day from the Career Tech System’s Political Action Committee. Altogether, the checks total over $4,000.

The donations are drawing scrutiny because Benge as appropriations and budget chairman last year advanced a large budget increase for career techs and much of the increase was used to raise salaries within the career tech system. Now it appears that closely on the heals of that vote and the pay increases, Benge was handsomely rewarded with thousands of dollars in contributions from career tech interests. Some also find it odd that dozens of checks from all across the state were somehow received by the campaign on the very same day.

Capitol observers are now wondering whether Benge will apply the same standard to himself that he applied to Piatt. Piatt was criticized for taking a $5,000 contribution from Texas businessman Brad Phillips after having worked on an insurance bill last session which was favorable to Phillips’ interests. Piatt had refused to return the contribution for weeks but was forced to make an embarrassing flip flop and admit the impropriety of the contribution by returning it shortly after Benge became Speaker. Piatt admitted that Benge asked him to give the contribution back.

Given the thousands of dollars Benge got from a group that he helped legislatively last session that are now drawing scrutiny, Capitol observers wonder if he will apply the same standard to himself that he applied to Piatt and return the contributions. Some see this as an early test of Benge’s leadership – will he apply consistent standards for everyone – including himself – or keep a double standard when it comes to his own fundraising?

Received via the confidential OKPNS Tip Line:

For more information, see the Oklahoma Ethics Commission

Murphey, Sullivan to fill Benge’s Posts on Two Committees

February 8, 2008

So, now that Chris Benge is moving on up to Speaker of the House, who’s going to fill his shoes? Turns out it’s going to take two to replace him: From Jennifer Mock, of the OK House of Representatives:

OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. 6, 2008) – Two state lawmakers were appointed today to serve on House subcommittees in the place of recently named House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa.

Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, will fill Benge’s spot on the House Banking Subcommittee, and Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa, will replace Benge on the House Insurance & Retirement Subcommittee.

“I look forward to working with Representative Murphey and Representative Sullivan in their new roles,” Benge said.

Benge was named Monday as the new Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. In Oklahoma, the House Speaker does not have regular duties on any legislative committees, though the Speaker can cast a vote in any committee.

House Republican Announces Bid for Speaker

February 2, 2008

OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. 1, 2008) – Rep. Chris Benge, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, announced today he is running for Speaker of the House.

“I’m honored some of my colleagues have encouraged me to run for this position, and am actively seeking votes from my fellow Republicans,” said Benge, R-Tulsa.

Benge has spent a decade in the House working in both in the minority and majority, and at the service of two speakers as the Appropriations and Budget Committee chairman.

This experience, and his intimate knowledge of the legislative budgeting process, is what several of his colleagues cited as reasons why they urged him to run, Benge said.

“Regardless of who is chosen by the caucus Monday, we will move forward with the agenda that was approved by all of our members and will be well-positioned to get the people’s work done this legislative session in a united way.”

Rep. Benge is a native Tulsan. He was born and raised in southwest Tulsa and currently resides in the community of Berryhill with his wife, Allison, and their two children, Garrett, 13, and Hayden, 11. He is an Oklahoma State University graduate with a degree in business



DEVELOPING: Chris Benge New Speaker? (1-31-08)

Governor Pushes More than $1 Billion in New Spending & Debt

February 14, 2007

Henry Spending like a Drunken Sailor?

After further examination of the governor’s executive budget, House appropriations chairman Rep. Chris Benge said Tuesday that the fine print reveals worrying details that could leave taxpayers on the hook for a billion dollars in new spending and debt.

Benge said the governor is pushing to expand state government using surplus money instead of paying for existing needs.

It’s our job to ask tough questions, and this does not seem to be a realistic budget, said Benge (R-Tulsa). I’m troubled by the governor’s push for new spending while racking up unnecessary long-term debt as a fix for spending commitments.”

Benge said that in December, the governor publicly cautioned lawmakers to be careful about overextending the state with new spending and new programs.

“We would respectfully ask the governor to follow his own advice, Benge said. However, it appears the governor is attempting to point us in a direction that will lead to financial hardship.” After looking through the governor’s executive budget, Benge said he found that while the governor proposes more than half a billion dollars in new spending and $663 million in bonds, he offers no additional tax relief for the state’s citizens.

Notably, Benge said the governor appears to be trying to make up for the lottery’s $40 million shortfall by proposing long-term bond issues. For example, the governor’s proposed $18.8 million in bonds for common education ad valorem reimbursement creates 20 to 30 years of debt for one year of school operational costs.

Benge has questioned some state revenue growth estimates for the 2008 fiscal year. For example, gross production collections are currently $74 million below estimates for the 2007 fiscal year, yet increases have been projected for FY 2008. There has also been a projected increase of 134 percent for corporate income taxes for FY 2008, which Benge said goes against a number of established trends.

The governor also proposes a 34.1 percent increase in funding for the lieutenant governor, though he told journalists this weekend he felt the office was a waste of taxpayer dollars.