Gov. Mary Fallin, who as vice chairman of a national group of governors met with the president last month, will be back in the nation's capital this week urging Congress and the president not to unfairly slash funding to states in their effort to reduce the federal deficit.
Part of the message Fallin hopes to deliver is that states should be freed from spending mandates if federal budget cuts make them unaffordable, the Republican governor said.
“If they cut spending but yet still require us to maintain the same level of service without the money then they're basically going to be balancing the federal budgets on the states' backs and we don't want that happening,” she said.
Fallin, along with Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat and chairman of the National Governors Association, will deliver the group's first-ever address on conditions and challenges facing the states. They will give the speech Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington.
“It's the first time that the National Governors Association has had a State of the States speech to the Washington press corps and other interested parties in D.C.,” Fallin said. “We just believe that it's important to raise the profiles of the needs of our states, that states and governors can be a great resource of information, especially as we're dealing with the financial issues of our nation and that the governors need to have a seat at the table with the president and Congress to address pressing issues that our nation's facing.”
Fallin was one of six governors from both parties who met last month at the White House with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and others to talk about federal spending issues. Fallin got national attention because she sat between the Democratic president and his Treasury secretary.
Fallin said governors realize state budgets will be affected as Congress and the president deal with taking deficit reduction steps in the weeks ahead. A last-minute “fiscal cliff” deal avoided federal cuts from being implemented last week and pushed back the deadline for spending cuts until March 1.
“They still haven't addressed a lot of problems that are facing our nation,” she said. “We do know that they're going to have make spending cuts and we certainly believe that they need to get our national debt down.”
If a deal isn't reached, then the “federal cliff,” or sequestration, could result in Oklahoma losing $137 million in direct federal funding as a result of automatic, governmentwide spending cuts.
Estimates are that Oklahoma, which has five military installations, could lose up to 20,000 jobs, which would include 8,000 military and aerospace-related positions, Fallin said.