CapitolBeatOK - Oklahoma Watchdog: Fallin Tells Obama to Liberate the States

News Article

By:  Mary Fallin
Date: Dec. 4, 2012
Location: Oklahoma City, OK

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin told President Barack Obama the nation's governors can help solve the federal financial crisis, but they'll need more authority and fewer directives from Washington D.C.

Fallin was among a group of governors who met today with the president, Vice President Joe Biden and other administration staffers.

Speaking with reporters in a press call at midday, Fallin said she stressed four points on behalf of the delegation. The focus was the so-called "fiscal cliff," the looming deadline for automatic budget and tax cuts.

Fallin said federal reforms should "produce savings for both the federal government and states." She pointed to shared responsibility for running certain programs should also mean "shared savings." As an example of her analysis, Fallin pointed to "the duals" -- beneficiaries eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare benefits. Instead of freeing the states to experiment, she said, the federal Health and Human Services (HHS) agency is still "struggling to approve demonstration projects. She asserted "more authority is necessary" for the states to craft alternatives.

Second, Fallin said deficit reduction should not be achieved through cost shifts to states, or imposition of additional "unfunded mandates." Fallin argued the federal deficit reduction "cannot be solved by the states" alone -- and should address both state funding cuts and mandates flowing from either federal legislation or judicial mandates.

As an example, she said, if special education funds are trimmed, underlying federal requirements should also be revised. Fallin also said Air National Guard reductions have been a concern for her administration.

Third, Fallin pressed for meaningful federalism in program administration. She said state officials must be permitted to "manage programs and find savings." She pressed on the issue of Medicaid waivers, saying the system is now slow and lacks transparency.

In the discussion with reporters, Fallin pointed to the "1115 waivers," technical shorthand for STC (special terms and conditions) waivers under Medicaid, including Insure Oklahoma. Such programs are scheduled to sunset in one year.

Finally, Fallin said, federal funding decisions should not include imposition of "Maintenance of Effort" strictures that increase state tax spending and burdens.

Fallin also serves as vice chairman of the National Governors Association. The group's elevation included Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, chairman of NGA, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Walker did not take part in the post-meeting briefing for reporters.

In his comments to reporters, Markell observed that most state governments are spending less now than in 2008, just before the Great Recession.

In December 2008, 12-month gross receipts for Oklahoma were $11.283 billion. According to analysis from state TreasurerKen Miller, circulated to reporters this morning, at the end of November 2012, state gross receipts were 11.073 billion for the previous 12 months.

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