States’ Rights panel advances Speaker’s contingency plan for spending cuts
Published: February 19th, 2013
OKLAHOMA CITY — The States’ Rights Committee, a new panel in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, on Feb. 19 advanced Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon’s proposal to require state government managers to anticipate reductions in federal revenues for their agencies.
Shannon has described his measure, House Bill 1917, as an effort “to prepare the state for a major cut in federal funding and still maintain core services for the people of Oklahoma.” In response to questions from House members at the hearing, Shannon said it would be effective at the turn of the fiscal year, on July 1.
A later release from Shannon clarified that the measure could, if passed by both House and Senate with sufficient majorities and signed by the governor, go into immediate effect.
Although federal sequestration (automatic spending cuts) could be triggered on March 1, the Lawton Republican’s proposal is aimed at the longer term. A summary of the measure from the Speaker’s office said the measure would direct agencies “to report and prioritize all federal funding. The bill also mandates all state agencies to create a contingency plan in preparation of a 25 percent reduction in federal funds.”
Before advancing the bill, members approved an amendment from Committee Chairman Lewis Moore, an Arcadia Republican, which he said would clarify for legislators the “terms and conditions” attached to use of federal money.
Democratic members of the Committee expressed concerns that the Speaker’s bill could become a vehicle for broader matters. State Rep. Ed Cannaday, a Porum Democrat, asked the Speaker if state agencies “have the authority to prioritize use of federal money?” His fellow Democrats — Kay Floyd of Oklahoma City and Kevin Matthews of Tulsa — expressed concern that the measure would become a mechanism for refusal of certain federal monies.
Shannon told Rep. Floyd, “There are no plans to refuse federal money in this bill.” He said the intention is to compel agency planning “for cuts if they become necessary.” The Speaker said that based on the results of his Interim Study of federal funding issues, he was “confident of the ability of the agencies to account for federal money” and become prepared for possible cuts.
State Rep. Mike Reynolds of Oklahoma City, asked why agencies that do not receive federal money were left out of the contingency planning. Shannon said his purpose was to require state agency planning for possible cuts when it comes to “federal money only.”
In the end, Shannon’s proposal drew a 9-1 bipartisan majority, with only state Rep. Mike Shelton, an Oklahoma City Democrat, in opposition. Reynolds, not a member of the panel, participated in questioning but did not vote.
Shannon thanked members of their support.
In a statement circulated to reporters after vote, he said, “The federal spending machine has spiraled out of control, and the Congress and the President are either incapable or unwilling to do what needs to be done. The endless mandates and the lack of leadership from Washington, D.C. have left the states dangerously dependent on federal funds and on the verge of a fiscal emergency.”
H.B. 1917 now moves to the Calendar Committee, which will decide on the timing of consideration by the full House.