Early shutdown effects modest in Oklahoma, as analysts debate impact

State government offices opened as usual. At Tinker Air Force Base, the state’s largest federal employer, workers – both military and civilian — were instructed to report as usual, and await further instructions.

Jonathan Small, a prominent right-of-center policy analyst, said the nation’s governors had overreacted to the shutdown, and should use the situation to work toward sounder fiscal and taxing policies. 

Monday evening, John Estus, a spokesman for the state’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES), told Oklahoma Watchdog, “The effect of a federal shutdown on state government depends almost entirely on the length of the shutdown. 

“A short-term shutdown lasting less than a few days or weeks will have minimal impact on state government operations. Much of the federal money used by state government is forward-funded, which gives agencies enough federal cash on hand to continue those programs in the short-term.

“A longer shutdown could create a more problematic situation, the scope of which is still being determined by each state agency that uses federal funding.”

At Tinker AFB, officials are preparing for an orderly shutdown of some activities. While military personnel will remain on regular duty status, civilian employees who are paid by appropriated funds will face furlough “except for exempt employees and the minimum number necessary to accomplish excepted activities … essential to national security and safety.” 

Tuesday, Tinker officials say, all employees will receive instructions “in regard to their respective duty status.” 

Concerning the state government, Alex Weintz, communications director for Gov. Mary Fallin, echoed Estus, telling Oklahoma Watchdog, “State entities and state services will, in large part, not be immediately affected by a federal shutdown. An exception is the Oklahoma National Guard, which may face furloughs.”

Weintz continued, “A prolonged federal shutdown could result in a more widespread reduction of government services at the state level. Additionally, a shutdown of any length could result in economic uncertainty that affects economic growth and job creation.”

In her role as chair of the National Governors Association, on Monday Republican Gov. Fallin joined Colorado Gov. John Hicklenlooper in a joint letter asking national leaders to end their impasse over budget and debt limit issues.

The joint letter, sent to congressional leaders and President Obama drew critical scrutiny from Jonathan Small, fiscal policy director for the free market “think tank,” Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

Small told Oklahoma Watchdog, “It’s disappointing that some Governor’s continue to play the role of ‘accomplice’ in the largesse and expanse of the federal government.

“Currently, the federal government’s chief activity is taking the fruits of its citizens’ labor, leveraging and redistributing it with reckless abandon. “Lamenting a federal government shutdown, when much of its operations violate the principles of limited government, personal responsibility, economic freedom and liberty, is not leadership. 

“Governors begging the federal government for certainty, while spending federal funds at near record levels are shirking responsibility and their actions are a big part of the reason why the federal debt has reached over $17 trillion and has unfunded liabilities exceeding $88 trillion.”

Small concluded his reflections, “Governors with their state’s best interest in mind want as many private sector jobs and as few public sector jobs as possible. Now more than ever, state governors should use the ineptness of the Feds to lead their states to become less dependent on the federal government.”

You may contact McGuigan at Patrick@capitolbeatok.com