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Oklahoma prepares for federal 'fiscal cliff' deadline

Oklahoma state agency heads have been told to make targeted cuts to absorb the estimated $137 million loss in federal money not available to Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin says.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: February 24, 2013

The state of Oklahoma is prepared for expected harsh cuts to federal money coming to state agencies that could be triggered this week if Congress and the president can't agree on how to deal with the national deficit, Gov. Mary Fallin said.

Agency heads have been told to make “strategic targeted cuts” to absorb the projected $137 million in loss of federal money coming to the state, she said.

“We're ready as far as prioritizing what our spending has been, know where our most important services need to be maintained,” Fallin said. “We're doing the best we can.

“No doubt we have to get our federal spending under control,” she said. “We have way too much debt in our nation.”

The reductions are due to begin Friday, but their immediate effects are unlikely to be severe because they will be phased in gradually over seven months.

Civilian defense cuts

However, the governor said she is concerned about projected defense cuts; the Defense Department is estimating civilians working at military installations in Oklahoma could lose a total of $129 million in pay from April through September if automatic spending cuts are triggered Friday.

The worst-case scenario, officials said, is employees would have to be furloughed for 22 days from April until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, which would amount to a 20-percent pay cut in that time period. Uniformed personnel are exempted, but there will be few exemptions for civilians.

The Air Force has estimated as many as 16,000 civilian workers may have to be furloughed at Oklahoma's three bases, with most coming at Tinker Air Force Base. The Army has an estimated 7,700 civilian workers at Fort Sill and at its ammunition plant in McAlester.

Fallin said estimates are that Oklahoma, which has five military installations, could lose up to 20,000 jobs, which would include 8,000 military and aerospace-related positions.

“We know that the military will take some pretty hard hits with their five military installations,” Fallin said. “That's worrisome for our state, especially with our aerospace and defense industries.”

An Oklahoma company has told her it already has lost one federal contract and will have to cut jobs, she said.

“So it's already starting to happen in Oklahoma,” Fallin said.

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