Monday, February 28, 2011
Oklahoma's first female governor is attending her first National Governors Association meeting. The freshman governor has been named to the group's nine-member executive committee.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT, The Oklahoman
Gov. Mary Fallin will be telling her peers this weekend about her efforts to reduce a $500 million budget shortfall by agency cuts and consolidations and making the state more efficient by sharing services.
Oklahoma's first female governor is heading to her first National Governors Association since winning the gubernatorial election in November. The meeting begins today in Washington and runs through Monday.
Fallin has been named to the association's nine-member executive committee; she is the only governor elected in November named to the committee. Members are elected annually and supervise the association's operations. It has general authority over all policy issues and primary jurisdiction over issues involving federalism, homeland security, the federal budget and federal tax policy.
In addition, she will be speaking in one of several “Governors-Only” sessions to provide governors a chance to discuss a variety of issues facing states.
Topics on today's agenda for the governors include job creation, education, health costs and homeland security.
The governors and their spouses are invited for a black-tie dinner with President Barack Obama and the first lady. They will return Monday to the White House for meetings with the president and members of his Cabinet.
Secretary of State Glenn Coffee is accompanying Fallin on her trip. Fallin's husband, Wade Christensen, is flying up Sunday to join the governor for the White House dinner.
Fallin, who served four years in Congress and 12 years as lieutenant governor before being elected governor, routinely attended National Lieutenant Governors Association meetings.
She was chairman of the group in 1997-98.
“I'm going to do everything I can to highlight Oklahoma,” Fallin said.
She said she will boast that Oklahoma officials this week voted to cut the state's top personal income tax rate from 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent at a time other states are raising taxes.
She has proposed a number of cuts and cost-saving measures to deal with having $500 million less to spend in the $6.2 billion budget for the 2012 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
“One of the things I'm going to talk about to the governors and the participants is that you can balance a budget, which Oklahoma is mandated to do, by not only cutting spending, but also creating more efficiency in state government,” Fallin said.
“I'm going to mention the over 70 different financial systems that we have in our state government that is wasteful and how I've called upon our state agencies to come under one financial management system.”
Measures that include some of Fallin's cost-saving proposals have passed a House committee and are awaiting action by the full House of Representatives. They include consolidation information technology services of all state agencies and consolidating several agencies.