An Arizona conservative group likes what Gov. Mary Fallin is doing and has scheduled her to serve as a featured speaker for an annual event that attracts more than 1,000 political, business, civic and philanthropic leaders.
Fallin, along with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, will speak Nov. 13 at the Goldwater Dinner in Phoenix. The event benefits the Goldwater Institute, a nonprofit advocacy and research organization that supports policies favoring lower taxes, limited government spending and school choice.
Starlee Rhoades, vice president of the Goldwater Institute, named after the late Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona, said the group is impressed with Fallin's efforts this year to reduce Oklahoma's personal income tax.
Health grant rebuffed
Fallin, Oklahoma's first female governor, encouraged lawmakers for four months to cut the state's top personal income tax rate, but legislators and the governor were unable to reach a final agreement before the session ended in late May.
Rhoades said the group also applauds Fallin's decision to return a $54.6 million federal grant last year that would have been used to set up an insurance exchange system. Fallin and Republican legislative leaders at first accepted the grant, then rejected the offer after hearing complaints from Republicans and conservatives in the state. Oklahomans in 2010 voted to opt out of the federal health care law.
“We thought that was a bold move and the right move,” Rhoades said. “From our perspective she's doing a fantastic job in putting limited government laws and initiatives into place.”
Haley, a Republican as is Fallin, was invited because she opposed the National Labor Relations Board's attempt to stop Boeing from building a manufacturing plant in South Carolina.
Individual tickets for the event range from $250 to $1,000. Tickets went on sale Wednesday and about 100 already have been sold, Rhoades said. Table sponsor tickets also are being sold.
“The Goldwater Institute promotes the ideas of constitutional liberty and freedom, things that we hold very dear in Oklahoma,” Fallin said. “It's not only an honor; it's a great opportunity to tell the Oklahoma story to a national audience.”
Previous speakers include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, both Republicans.
The Goldwater Institute will pay for Fallin's transportation to Phoenix, said Alex Weintz, Fallin's communications director.
Fallin will leave Phoenix for the Republican Governors Association annual conference Nov. 14-16 in Las Vegas. Those costs will be paid from the governor's campaign funds, he said.
Fallin also plans to attend a National Governors Association meeting in San Diego later that week. She is vice chairman of the bipartisan organization of the nation's governors. The trip to San Diego and the return flight to Oklahoma City likely will be paid with state funds, Weintz said.
The state usually pays for trips to the National Governors Association because the governor attends in an official capacity as the state's chief executive.