Fallin stresses conservative views in press room visit

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 01-Mar-2010

U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor this year, came to the state Capitol Monday. After visits to both House and Senate Republican caucus meetings, she strolled down the fourth floor hallway to stop in the Capitol press room for an impromptu visit and press conference with about a half-dozen reporters.

In her press room exchange, Fallin described a changed mood in Washington, D.C. over the past year, with a shift from “a cry for change” when President Barack Obama was inaugurated to determined opposition to the change he has sought in the form of health care reform.

Fallin said opposition to health care reform has come from mainstream Americans in the Tea Party movement, “not fringe groups” as some of the president’s allies have contended. She expressed hope the president will not pursue the so-called “nuclear option” by passing his health care proposal without amendments through the reconciliation process. 

Fallin said she supports a proposed state measure, which could go to the voters this fall, to keep the state exempt from so-called “Obamacare.” She noted she has co-sponsored a resolution in Congress to allow such an exemption. Fallin said Americans and Oklahomans want reform and better care, but do not support “new debt, fines and penalties” in health care. She believes states “should have more leeway” than envisioned in the president’s plans.

In response to a question from CapitolBeatOK about the proposed sale of CompSource, Oklahoma’s “last resort” insurer for workers compensation insurance, Rep. Fallin said it appears present policy holders would become owners, in “mutualizing” the asset, should the state devolve its interest. However, Fallin said, “it appears the courts will have to decide” the matter. Some analysts believe assets from any sale of CompSource should go to taxpayers. 

Rep. Fallin said the visit earlier this year of House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar, a Democrat, went well. She said he understands Oklahoma’s projects and “was impressed with what we’re doing.” Fallin said a series of extensions, rather than passage of a final transportation bill, have impeded progress and planning for state transportation officials. She said the state’s $11 billion backlog in bridge and road repair has to be addressed, and the chairman “is working with us” to resolve the standoff.

Fallin noted she has been in office 20 years and “this is the third boom and bust cycle I’ve seen in Oklahoma government.” She expressed relief that voters have supported creation of the Rainy Day Fund, allowing time to absorb budget cuts and income reductions. Asked what proposals she would make to address state spending challenges, Fallin stressed her push to make the state more business-friendly, including through passage of a workers compensation reform to lower costs to business while retaining support for injured workers.

Responding to assertions by state Sen. Randy Brogdon of Owasso, her primary opponent, that she has avoided joint appearances, the fifth district member of Congress said, “We will debate him, there’s no doubt about that. But I’m still in Congress fulfilling my duties, and the Legislature is still in session, so he’s in the Senate doing his job.” Pressed on the issue, Fallin said there would be at least one debate, and perhaps more.