WASHINGTON — Gov. Mary Fallin urged President Barack Obama and congressional leaders on Tuesday to keep states' finances in mind as they negotiate over federal taxes and spending cuts.
At a White House meeting with fellow governors, Fallin sat between the president and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for a discussion on the looming “fiscal cliff,” a mix of tax hikes and spending cuts that will be triggered in January if Congress and the president don't take action to avert them.
“We did not come here to endorse any particular policy that is being debated on the national level … but to say we feel like the governors should have a seat at the table,” Fallin said after the meeting.
“We want to offer information, we want to be a resource that there are great ideas in creating efficiencies, saving money in our own states, and we hope that we can be a part of the process moving forward.”
Fallin, vice chair of the National Governors Association, was one of six governors, from both parties, who met with Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Geithner and others at the White House. She and other governors met with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Fallin said the governors acknowledged deficit reduction will require shared sacrifice and that state budgets would likely be impacted. She said states should be freed from mandates if federal budget cuts make them unaffordable.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, chair of the National Governors Association, said the president didn't “handicap” the prospect of reaching an agreement with congressional Republicans to avoid the fiscal cliff. Markell said the president made it clear he wants to reach a deal.
Markell also said a long-term deal would be better than a “three-month fix.”
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said his state's budget could lose as much as $500 million.
States are willing to do more with less, he said, if some strings are removed.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the session “was a good, solid meeting discussing the fiscal cliff … the shared concerns of governors that we address our fiscal challenges in a way that ensures that the economy continues to grow and create jobs.”
After meeting with the congressional leaders, Fallin said there was still “a lot of political divide between the two political parties in the House and Senate leadership about the answers to solving our challenging fiscal crisis.”
House Republicans made a proposal on Monday that would allow for $800 billion in new tax revenue over 10 years by closing loopholes and reducing deductions for upper-income taxpayers; the GOP proposal would also make cuts to Medicare and Social Security and other federal spending.
Obama has insisted that a deal include higher income tax rates on families with incomes above $250,000.