Oklahoma May Face Federal Cuts

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

At the request of lawmakers, agencies have given us a preview of what will happen if an automatic reduction in federal spending known as sequestration occurs. Sequestration will occur if Congress and President Barack Obama fail to come together to institute targeted cuts.

Officials with the Oklahoma State Health Department have told us that the agency receives approximately $140 million in federal funding, or 56 percent of the agency budget. The estimated effect of sequestration is $14 million, which translates to a reduction and elimination of numerous preventative programs including those that protect state residents against the West Nile virus.

Education programs face a total of $51 million in cuts if sequestration occurs. Early reading and special education programs would be especially affected, according to state education officials. Other state programs that would be impacted under sequestration include the state Systems of Care Initiative, corrections programs such as adult education, and water conservation programs.

If sequestration occurs, there will likely be a push for state lawmakers to look to fund critical services that were previously funded by the federal government. That is going to add an extra wrinkle to the always-delicate budget negotiations that take place at the state Capitol.

I also wanted to briefly mention that charges have been filed in relation to the death of Serenity Deal, who died in the care of the Department of Human Services. Two DHS employees were charged with suppressing info to the judge, that had he known about, he would never have placed Serenity back with her father. After the death occurred, there was a DHS employee who committed suicide. That particular employee was vindicated. Hopefully, with the numerous reforms we have enacted this past year along with a new director, we will begin to solve the problems that have continued to plague the agency.

Sometime in the next few weeks, House Speaker-elect T.W. Shannon will be announcing committee assignments including new chairpersons. We should also learn who will be House Majority Floor Leader, a position appointed by Shannon.

Finally, I want to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you will take the time to think about all the blessings you have and to give thanks. I pray for you to have safe travels during the holiday season.

As always, I would love to hear from you. During the interim I will be traveling the district, but will regularly check the calls I receive at the Capitol office at (405) 557-7407.

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