The Duncan Banner

March 1, 2013

Sequestration will not cause the sky to fall in Stephens County

Megan Bristow
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN —  

Automatic across the board budget cuts are scheduled to go into effect today, known as sequestration. The sequestration is a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which was designed to encourage legislative leaders to come up with a plan to  reduce the deficit.
Steve Fair, Republican National Committee Man For Obama, said the sequester was never actually meant to go into effect.
“It was to force them to sit down and look at each agency in a specific way,” he said.
Sequestration was never meant to happen,” Oklahoma Representative Dennis Johnson said. “It was meant to be so scary they would come to an agreement before it would happen.”
Because legislative leaders failed to come to a conclusion on an effective way to reduce government spending, each government agency will have a forced budget cut, which Johnson said amounts to 2.3 percent overall.
“As I understand, it is a 2.3 percent cut overall, which is a significant cut and it will hurt in some ways but we are not talking about a 50 percent reduction or anything I would call catastrophic,” he said.
Association of South Central Oklahoma Governments is one local agency that will be impacted by the budget cuts. Executive Director Blaine Smith said the cuts would reduce their budget by about $160,000. He said he anticipated this resulting in about six people not being able to go to workforce training.
“I do not see any drastic problem,” he said. “The sky is not going to fall. If you cannot take two percent of the trillion dollar budget, there is something wrong.”
While Fair agreed that the sky would not fall with these minimal budget cuts, he said this was not a good way to cut funds out of the budget. 
“It is not the best way to deal with government spending,” he said. “Quite frankly, it penalizes the agencies that are doing a good job.”
Fair said he believes there should have been strategic, surgical cuts in government, something that Johnson said could still transpire in the next few weeks. He said the legislation might plan on making modifications that would lessen the cuts in some agencies and increase the cuts in others before there is much impact.
“I do wish that Congress could have come to an agreement without being forced into sequestration,” Johnson said. “In my view, it is a disproportional cut.”
City Manager Jim Frieda said the area that he is worried about most is national security. 
“Our military readiness is going to be directly affected,” he said. “Locally, what I think we are looking at is some impact that it will have on the training at Fort Sill.”
Frieda served three tours at Fort Sill during his military career. He said he is concerned not only with the personnel cuts this will cause but also the training that is provided.
Lyle Roggow, President of the Duncan Area Economic Development Foundation, said he does not expect any immediate impact on the Stephens County Community.
“The sequestration impacts everyone but some communities will not be as severe,” he said.
Roggow predicted that communities such as Lawton, Midwest City, Altus and Enid would see more impact from the budget cuts because of the concentration of military and federal entities in those communities.
“Depending on where you are, three percent could be a huge blow in that local community,” he said.
Johnson said that Oklahoma is preparing to find ways to deal with the budget cuts dependent on any modifications that are made but feels that regardless, Oklahoma is better prepared than other states for the cuts.
“We are much better prepared for these impending cuts than other states in the union,” he said. “Our economy is on the rise. Our jobs are on the rise.”
Fair also believes there will be no immediate impact in Stephens County or other areas. He said it will most likely be 30 to 60 days before anyone sees the effects.