February 20, 2013
By Patrick B. McGuigan
State Budget Solutions, a national group advocating fiscally conservative policies, has named Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin winner of its “Real Leader” award.
The nonpartisan group pressing for budget and pension reforms honored Fallin for her “willingness to champion fiscal responsibility” by not undertaking Medicaid expansion she says the state cannot afford.
From her office in Oklahoma City, Fallin said she appreciated the group’s “recognition of Oklahoma’s fiscal responsibility.”
Oklahoma is one of 13 states not participating in the Medicaid expansion included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Others include Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. Republicans are governors in each of those states.
In an interview with CapitolBeatOK, Bob Williams, president of State Budget Solutions, said the governor understands that “state dependence on federal funding has grown dangerously, especially over the last four years.
”Right now, 43 of the states are getting at least one-third of their total funding from the federal government. That is untenable and unsustainable.”
Williams made the announcement from his office in Alexandria, Va., commenting, “Governor Fallin acted in the best interests of Oklahomans, choosing the path of long-term stability, as opposed to short-term popularity. She defends state sovereignty and respects the choices made by her constituents. Her efforts provide an excellent example of principled decision-making and upstanding communication.”
Williams put Fallin’s decision in a national context: “One thing to remember is that there is no money at this time for the federal health care exchanges.”
Fallin commented, “Choosing not to expand Medicaid as proposed in PPACA was the right decision for Oklahoma. The president’s expansion is unworkable and unaffordable for our state. Some estimates show expanding Medicaid would cost Oklahoma an additional $689 million. Instead, we are focusing on an Oklahoma plan to improve the health of our citizens, lower the frequency of preventable illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, and improve access to quality and affordable health care. My thanks go out to State Budget Solutions for this honor and for the group’s recognition of Oklahoma’s fiscal responsibility.”
SBS also praised Oklahoma for Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. The suit presses the argument that federal authorities does not have the authority to provide tax credits through exchanges the U.S. government runs, rather than the states.
Additionally, in May 2011, Fallin signed into law an authorization for Oklahoma to participate in a health care compact, a legal mechanism for states to create their own health care policies. Sponsors of the Oklahoma compact were state Sen. Clark Jolley of Edmond and state Rep. Glen Mulready of Tulsa, both Republicans.
Fallin is the third U.S. governor to win the award. Previous winners of the “Real Leader” award include Utah state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, for efforts to address the state’s government pension crisis, and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who led the Hoosier State for two terms and tackled budget, education and health savings reforms.
Editor’s Note: The Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity partners with State Budget Solutions