Fallin says state agencies prepared for sequester

March 02, 2013

The Tulsa World

By Wayne Greene

No immediate loss of state services should result from the pending federal budget sequester, Gov. Mary Fallin said Friday.

State agencies have had months to prepare for the reduction of federal funds, which was scheduled to begin at midnight Saturday, Fallin said.

"While it is still unclear how many dollars each state agency will lose, we do not expect an immediate loss in state services," she said.

"Months ago, I asked my Cabinet secretaries and state agency directors to plan ahead for sequestration. We believe the state is well prepared."

Earlier this week, the Obama administration issued a report showing Oklahoma schools could lose at least $12.2 million in federal funding, including $7.3 million for special education, under the automatic spending cuts.

In total, sequestration would curtail federal spending by $85 billion through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, but the report didn't detail the losses in federal funds to state agencies.

Fallin said the federal budget mess is an unneeded, self-inflicted wound for the nation.

"It is clear the sequester is creating a chaotic and uncertain environment for businesses looking to invest, state governments tasked with crafting budgets, and those who receive federal benefits or who work for or contract with the government," she said.

"That uncertainty is bad for the economy and is destroying jobs. Furthermore, the large and seemingly haphazard cuts to military spending reduce the effectiveness of our armed services and hurt the economies of states with large military presences, such as Oklahoma."

She pointed blame at the president in her statement.

"President Obama has said he doesn't like the sequester, but he has not laid out a viable alternative," Fallin said. "It is now up to him to work with Congress and deliver solutions. That starts with getting serious about spending cuts."

As the vice chairwoman of the National Governors Association, Fallin speaks with a national voice on the sequestration issue.

As she has in the past, Fallin contrasted federal inability to deal with budget issues with the state's performance.

"In Oklahoma, we faced a budget shortfall of over $500 million in 2011 - nearly 10 percent of our total budget," Fallin said. "Like other states, we made tough choices, cut spending and worked to make state government more efficient and effective. We balanced our budget. There is no reason the federal government cannot do the same."