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Oklahoma governor to deliver states' concerns, priorities

As vice chairman of the National Governors Association, Gov. Mary Fallin will speak this week at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: January 6, 2013

Concerned about cuts

The governor said she is concerned what effect defense cuts would have on National Guard units.

“We need the ability to have a National Guard that will be able to provide essential services and not have their budgets slashed so much or their authority taken away that we don't have that resource as governors,” she said.

States want more flexibility to collaborate with Congress and the president during their discussions on addressing the nation's debt, entitlement programs and spending cuts “that we all know have to be done in Washington, D.C.,” Fallin said.

Governors also can give examples of cutting expenses as states have struggled to recover economically from the 2008 national recession, she said. Oklahoma, for example, during her administration has reduced expenditures by eliminating several agencies and placing them under one office and consolidating all state information technology services and placing them under the same office.

Fallin also said the Insure Oklahoma program, which began several years ago, has been effective in reducing the number of uninsured workers in the state. The program provides state funds to be matched by small businesses and their employees to buy private health insurance coverage. However, a waiver from the federal government that allowed the program to expand may be eliminated, she said.

Increased visibility

Fallin will become chairman of the National Governors Association in August. She will be the first Oklahoma governor and the first Republican female governor to serve in the post.

She said the position increases Oklahoma's visibility. She's also working with the National Governors Association staff in developing policies dealing with relationships between states and the federal government.

“It's kind of given us a prime seat at the table to deal directly with the president, the Cabinet secretaries, and certainly we're representing the governors around the nation as we deal with Congress,” Fallin said.

It also could lead to some economic perks, she said.

“National organizations and national corporations — they know who the chair and vice chair is,” Fallin said.

“We're finding an increased level of communication from major corporations and national organizations that want to have meetings with me as the vice chair and with my staff which is beneficial to Oklahoma because it's opening up all kinds of doors of opportunities.”