McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State news

March 5, 2013

House to Okla. agencies: Prep for losing fed funds

Oklahoma City — With Monday's vote, the Oklahoma House sent a message to state agencies: Plan as if your federal funding were going to plummet by 25 percent.

To be clear, no cut that size is being debated in Washington. But Republican House Speaker T. W. Shannon's bill, which passed 70-26, directs agencies to create contingency plans to apply from this fiscal year forward in case that ever happens. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Shannon and other supporters said that as the federal government lurches from one budget showdown to the next creating contingency plans is simply a smart move. Automatic budget cuts that will trim more than $80 billion in federal spending before this September went into effect last week after Congress didn't act.

"We have a bunch of childish buffoons in Washington, D.C., who don't play well together in the sandbox," said Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, who broke with many of his fellow Democrats in voting for the measure. "We don't know what's going to happen year to year now."

Oklahoma's agencies received roughly $7 billion — about 40 percent of the state's revenues — from the federal government last fiscal year, according to a report from the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. And in the 2010 census, the state ranked 15th in the nation for federal dollars received per capita, with the bulk going toward health and human services.

Federal funding has been at the forefront of the current legislative session.

Gov. Mary Fallin refused to take part in a Medicaid expansion paid for by the federal government. House Democratic leader Scott Inman told his colleagues that it didn't make sense for them to support Shannon's measure while also backing Fallin's refusal of federal money for Medicaid and other programs.

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