Local effects Sequestration could have

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GRAYSON COUNTY, TX -- $85 billion dollars in automatic spending cuts could go into effect Friday if Congress and the White House do not reach an agreement.

At the White House Monday, President Obama said the cuts can be averted with "just a little bit of compromise." The president has endorsed a senate democratic bill that seeks higher taxes on millionaires and unspecified cuts to defense and farm programs.
House Speaker John Boehner said the President got his tax increase in the fiscal cliff deal, now it is time to reduce spending. If the cuts do take place The President says the impact may not be felt immediately; however, the uncertainty is already having an effect here locally.

If sequestration takes affect the White House spells out in a report some examples of the impacts. According to "whitehouse.gov". more than $1-million dollars will be cut from Oklahoma's public health services and more than $10-million from Texas.

"Our professional association believes we may see cuts as large as eight percent in some of our five grants in Grayson County," John Teel said.

John Teel, Director of the Grayson County Health Department, says an eight percent cut is manageable.

"We don't think service levels will drop in a way that the public could feel it," Teel said.

However, he says their agency would feel some set backs. For example, Teel says an eight percent cut could limit emergency preparedness exercises.

"Like floods and tornadoes and terrorist attacks and big disease outbreaks. If we were planning four table top exercises a year we may cut that down to three exercises," Teel said.

TCOG Executive Director, Dr. Susan Thomas says sequestration could hurt those on low or fixed incomes.

"The Section Eight Housing Program, which is a rental assistance program. It looks like the cuts could be about six percent to that program which would amount to about 12 to 13,000 dollars a month for us which equates to service for about 30 families," Dr. Thomas said.

She says that would mean even less available housing for area families.

"The demand for our services already outweighs the available funds so when you have additional funding pressure it just means that pent up demand gets higher and higher and the waiting lists get longer and longer," Dr. Thomas said.

The White House warns federal agencies like the FAA and FDA will also be affected, forced to furlough employees and cut back operations. They say that could result in flight delays, reduced services, possibly even reduced food inspections all of which could impact public safety.

Education would take a hit as well. Oklahoma stands to lose around $5 million dollars in primary and secondary funding while Texas would lose about $68 million, and the Education Secretary Arne Duncan says up to 40,000 teachers nationwide could lose their jobs.

"It just means a lot more children will not get the services they need," Duncan said.

Millions of dollars would also be cut from the military. Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe recently spoke out about the devastating effects that Sequestration could have on the state.

"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," Senator Inhofe said.

Teel and Thomas say they hope congress can avoid the cuts, but say they will make adjustments if they have to.

"It will be interesting to see if Congress can compromise and make these cuts more strategic," Teel said.

"I think eventually they will reach some sort of solution weather it's before or after Sequestration takes affect," Dr. Thomas said.

Despite the looming deadline there is no indication that the White House and Congress are negotiating.

For a more in depth look at the White House's report on Sequestration impacts in Texas and Oklahoma visit the links below.





For Senator Inhofe's full statement visit:


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