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February 2, 2013

Sequestration threatens state jobs

NORMAN — Thousands of people in Oklahoma could be facing job furloughs if sequestration is implemented March 1.

Sequestration — automatic across-the-board cuts implemented when Congress doesn’t pass a budget — affects all federal agencies. In this neck of the woods, people think first of the impact on Tinker Air Force Base, but the imposed cuts are not limited to defense department spending.

“Sequestration happens March 1 and it will occur,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore. “The House (of Representatives) has acted twice. The president has not put forward a proposal... The Senate hasn’t had a budget in four years.”

Cole said the National Weather Center located in Norman would be among the many federal agencies affected. In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration and Indian Health Care would be subject to the cuts of about “8 percent across the board,” Cole said.

“I’m on the budget committee,” Cole said. “We can get this done.”

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, is the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. He believes there would be “devastating impacts to Oklahoma’s defense sector” if sequestration goes into effect.

“The Department of Defense is now being told to prepare for sequestration and for furloughing more than 800,000 civilian employees,” Inhofe said. “In my home state of Oklahoma, all five of our major installations will see budget cuts. As a result, readiness and modernization will decline and many civilian personnel will be let go or have their hours significantly reduced, impacting local economies.”

Cole said until it happens, there is still hope.

“I think they think Congress will blink and that’s not going to happen,” Cole said.

Congress passed legislation raising the debt ceiling on Thursday. The debt limit measure had a string attached by House Republicans, however — a provision to withhold the pay of Senate or House members if they do not pass a budget this year.

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