Fallin asks Republican legislators to move quickly on priorities

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin is encouraging Republicans in both the House and Senate to advance the conservative policy agenda she and others “have talked about for many years.” In a press conference in the Blue Room at the Capitol today (Monday, March 28), she characterized morning meetings with members of the majority caucus in each chamber as productive. 

 In response to a question from CapitolBeatOK, Fallin agreed there is a distance of two to three percentage points between the cuts she supports (on the lower side) and those the legislative leaders have recently advocated. Her comment appeared to ratify various press accounts and comments from the leading players in both the House and Senate. Fallin still wants to limit agency budget cuts in the 3 to 5 percent range, whereas legislators are looking at cuts of as much as 7 percent.

 The governor insisted, both in her opening comments and in response to questions from the assembled reporters, that her proposals for consolidations and efficiencies in Information Technology and other agency services would reduce the need for larger reductions in agency appropriations.

 The chief executive said the agenda she laid out is based on getting “key provisions in place” to create jobs and grow the state economy. She expressed hope, as well, the Legislature can “get the budget done early so that the agencies know how much money they have to spend.” 

 She asked for continued momentum for legal policy objectives — lawsuit reform and changes in workers compensation, asking GOP caucus members to “get those bills to my desk” as soon as possible. Other priorities she mentioned included restoration of an aerospace tax credit, and a “one-stop-shop for licensing” bill.

 Fallin reiterated her support for changes in state law that would enhance the powers of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and redefine the relationship between the superintendent and the state board of education. She described herself as “glad to learn” that both proposals had cleared Senate committees and were headed to the floor of the upper chamber. The governor listed grading of schools and a measure to curb the practice of social promotion as other education reform priorities.

 Fallin noted that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is visiting the state this week for a speaking engagement, and would be meeting with legislators Wednesday. She repeated previously expressed support for Florida-style reforms in Oklahoma education. 

 Governor Fallin also used the press briefing to thank legislators for moving to approve four of her Cabinet appointees, including Education Secretary Phyllis Hudacki, Secretary of State Glenn Coffee, emergency director Albert Ashwood and Personnel Management Director Oscar Jackson. 

 Responding to a cluster of questions on budget issues, Fallin said she had met several times with legislative leaders and believes “we’re close” in terms of spending numbers. When queried on budget issues and the health care exchange, she disclosed that most of the discussion in the Senate caucus meeting was on tort reform. She said she wants a bill passed that keeps a “hard cap” on non-economic damages in place. 

 Some of the governor’s proposals have gone by the wayside as the Legislature reaches the halfway point, but she insisted she was concentrating on “live rounds” (measures that still have a chance of passage). 

 The governor restated her support for House Bill 2130, creating a health care exchange. The exchange proposal has created divisions among Fallin’s conservative Republican base of support in the House of Representatives.