Wednesday, July 25, 2012
By D. Ray Tuttle, The Journal Record
Posted: 09:18 PM Tuesday, July 24, 2012
TULSA – State officials remain engaged with American Airlines officials as the company works its way through bankruptcy, Gov. Mary Fallin said on Tuesday.
Fallin delivered an informal State of the State address to more than 800 people in downtown Tulsa for the Tulsa Metro Chamber.
“We remain in contact with American Airlines,” said Fallin, who met with reporters afterward. “We want to help American in any way we can. We want American to be successful and keep as many jobs in Tulsa and Oklahoma as possible.”
State officials are examining areas in which the airline might be eligible for incentives, she said.
This month, two union work groups with the Transport Workers Union Local 14 reached agreements on proposed contracts with American Airlines. The contracts with the groups – Mechanic & Related and Stores – will allow American Airlines to achieve what it says are cost savings necessary to compete. The tentative agreements will be put to a vote of TWU members nationwide. That vote will end on about Aug. 8. Vote results will be revealed before the judge rules on whether to terminate the contracts under Section 1113 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. That hearing is set for Aug. 15.
During her meeting with reporters, Fallin said the financial status of the state is its top strength. In her address, Fallin said that when she assumed office, the Rainy Day Fund had $2.03.
“Nothing to write home about,” Fallin said.
Today, the Rainy Day Fund has nearly $500 million, she said.
“We are fortunate to have several industry segments that strong – energy, aerospace, manufacturing,” Fallin said.
The state is among the leading states in job creation in all of those areas, Fallin said.
While the state has a low jobless rate – Fallin cited 4.7 percent – there is the challenge to find skilled, educated workers.
“There are businesses that cannot find the workers they need,” Fallin said. “We are working with the state Department of Commerce to do things that match the skills of the workers with the job openings.”
On health care, Fallin said she will not make a decision on how to budget for the federal health care overhaul until the November general election. Fallin said she hoped for a change in the White House and both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.
“There is so much that can happen between now and the elections,” Fallin said. “My preference would be that we have a change of president and that President (Mitt) Romney would repeal or replace the bill with a plan that’s more affordable. There are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding the federal health care bill. We are weighing the financial implications.”
Thirty-five states have not implemented the full force of the law, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld on a 5-4 vote in June.
Fallin said spending to enforce the health care law would harm education, corrections and other core governmental entities.
Fallin touched a wide range of subjects, from aviation to taxes, during her 40-minute presentation.
Fallin promoted her compressed natural gas vehicle incentive plan. Fallin was in Detroit this month trying to persuade automakers to produce more CNG vehicles.
“It is a little of the chicken-and-egg syndrome,” said Fallin, referring to what comes first – the natural gas lines at filling stations or the CNG cars. “We are fortunate to live in a state now that has abundance of resources such as oil and natural gas, and a people that understands the importance of education, business, health care reform and a better quality of life.”
American filed for bankruptcy protection on Nov. 29 and in February announced plans to eliminate 13,000 union jobs, including 2,600 jobs in Tulsa, as part of its cost-cutting strategy.