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2012 profiles: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin hopes for streak to continue

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: January 15, 2012

Gov. Mary Fallin hopes the honeymoon period she enjoyed with lawmakers last year continues as she seeks to find ways to reduce the state's personal income tax rate and build on efforts to improve the state's business climate.

It helps that the Republican governor will be dealing again with a GOP-controlled Legislature and that both legislative leaders share her same general philosophy. Many of the proposals she made in February, during her first State of the State address, were embraced and passed before lawmakers ended their work in May.

Successes for Fallin, the state's first female governor, included getting changes in the civil justice system, overhauling the workers' compensation system and eliminating the “trial de novo” system that made it hard to fire underperforming teachers.

The governor, completing her first year in office, wants to gradually reduce the personal income tax until it is eliminated. The state's economy appears to be getting stronger, but a flat state budget is shaping up for the upcoming fiscal year. Enough new money is expected to come in to make up for using about $500 million of one-time funds to put together this year's legislative-appropriated $6.4 billion budget.

“I'm going to continue to focus on strengthening our economy and our environment — getting Oklahomans back to work that are unemployed, helping our businesses continue to grow, and job creation,” Fallin said.

Fallin, 57, said she expects a healthy debate during this year's legislative session, which begins Feb. 6, on the state's tax system and structure.

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