By Patrick B. McGuigan
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin was part of a six-person delegation of state chief executives who met last week with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and members of the federal administration’s executive team.
The Oklahoman told reporters in the press call at mid-day that she had stressed four key points on behalf of all the attending governors in the discussion with Obama. The focus was on the so-called “fiscal cliff” and the budget/spending gridlock now dominant in Washington, D.C.
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. She said the federal Health and Human Services (HHS) agency is “struggling to approve demonstration projects, ad asserted “more authority is necessary” for the states to craft alternatives.
Second, Fallin said deficit reduction should not be achieved through cost shirts to states, or imposition of additional “unfunded mandates.” Fallin argued the federal deficit reduction “cannot be solved by the states” – 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 authority must be permitted to “manage programs and find savings.” She pressed on the issue of Medicaid waivers, saying the system is now untimely (taking too long for decisions to be reached) and lacks transparency.
In the mid-day discussion with reporters, Fallin pointed to the “1115 waivers,” the technical shorthand for STC (special terms and conditions) waivers under Medicaid, including Oklahoma’s Insure Oklahoma. Such programs are scheduled to sunset in one year.
As her fourth prepared point in the discussion with the president and his advisors, Gov. Fallin said that federal funding decisions should not include imposition of “Maintenance of Effort” strictures that increase state tax spending and burdens.
In a subsequent interview with The City Sentinel, Gov. Fallin said the president seems determined to increase taxes on upper income income Americans, despite the lingering Recession. Fallin and the other governors have said it will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to craft meaningful state budgets until the extent of federal cuts becomes clearer.
Nationwide, news stories and analyses anticipate the nation could see another recession if the “cliff” and automatic budget cuts known as sequestration are not avoided.
Meeting with the president were Fallin, presently serving as vice chairman of the National Governors Association, 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 a post-meeting briefing for reporters, but Fallin and the other four governors did.