July 25, 2012
Th Tulsa World
By Randy Krehbiel
Gov. Mary Fallin put a rosy face on the state's economy for the Tulsa Metro Chamber on Tuesday, but she said the continued upward trend depends largely on things beyond Oklahoma's control.
"Oil and gas (tax revenues) have not been as high" in recent months, Fallin said after her State of the State address in the Tulsa Convention Center Ballroom.
"We're monitoring oil and gas very closely. Overall, the economy is improving, and we have $500 million in the "rainy day" fund, but there are a lot of factors nationally. There are a lot of moving factors in the national economy."
Earlier, Fallin told the audience of about 1,000 people that political and economic uncertainties make predictions difficult. In response to a question from the floor about what she would tell President Barack Obama were he to visit the state again - an apparent reference to Fallin's being out of the state when Obama visited Oklahoma earlier this year - the governor said she would "talk to him ... about a lot of things that are uncertain, in Congress and the administration, that not only have a tremendous impact on the national economy but on Oklahoma's economy, as well."
Among them, Fallin said, are the national debt and the looming prospect of sequestration - automatic spending cuts triggered by last year's debt-reduction agreement - as well as the potential expiration of the so-called Bush tax cuts.
The national elections and the global economy, in neither of which Oklahoma has much say, could well trump all other wild cards.
Fallin said the best course is to concentrate on business, including ancillary government functions such as education, transportation and health care.
The governor also reviewed efficiency measures, including integration and upgrading of the state's information technology systems and energy savings. Included in that is an initiative to work with U.S. automakers to make available a greater variety of compressed natural gas-powered fleet vehicles. Oklahoma was among 20 states to issue a request for proposals on Tuesday for "affordable and functional" CNG cars and light trucks that state and local governments could order in large quantities.
On several occasions, Fallin stressed the importance of a "highly skilled, educated workforce" and took some pains to defend this year's essentially flat common education budget. She said "baseline" funding increased because $54 million added to last year's total through a supplemental appropriation was included in this year's general appropriation bill.
Fallin also said education received an additional $20 million this year from the school land fund, a state trust that manages land and mineral rights reserved for the support of schools.