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Education, Transportation, Healthcare Will Feel Impact Of Federal Cuts, Freezes

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Rusty Surette, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- In President Obama's State of the Union address, he said he plans to halt federal spending in order to reduce the deficit. Education, transportation and health services are the three key areas Oklahomans are likely to feel the impact of federal cuts.

"I recognize that some in this chamber have already proposed deeper cuts, and I'm willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without. But let's make sure that we're not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens. And let's make sure what we're cutting is really excess weight," said President Obama in his speech.

But how will the cuts impact families all across Oklahoma? If lawmakers in Washington begin freezing or slashing federal funds, it will impact anyone in Oklahoma who drives, has elderly parent or children in public school.

On the very same day the president spoke about the struggles facing schools across the nation, including the number of students in the United States who still don't even finish high school, Oklahoma revealed its own problems.

A new report shows 75 percent of all eight graders in Oklahoma are not proficient in basic science.

Oklahoma's new Superintendent Janet Barresi is working on changing that, but her task is now complicated by the fact school districts may soon have fewer federal funds to work with.

"It will dramatically affect our block grants, all our entitlement money, special education and things such as that," said Barresi.

Education, transportation and health services are the three key areas Oklahomans are likely to feel the impact of federal cuts. That's because several state agencies like ODOT rely heavily on federal dollars. Top that off with budget cuts already expected on a state level and it's sure to be a rocky year for many state workers.

"We're going to face some tough decisions coming up," said Carter Kimble, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

Kimble said the biggest concern for many is what will happen to Medicaid, which helps pay for services like nursing homes. Kimble said if federal and state dollars begin to dry up, so will everything else.

"And right now it's just so uncertain that it's tough to know not only how much we're going to be making up, but where it will come from without hurting Oklahomans and their healthcare," said Kimble.

Republicans say they're looking to return federal spending levels to what they were in 2008.

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