SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Alaska Senate on a Savings Spree
Fiscal Planning Bills, Capital Budget Passed


April 07, 2008

(SitNews) - Several major pieces of legislation moved through the Alaska Senate last week as it nears the end of the 2008 legislative session and historic deposits to the state's rainy day accounts were made.

Savings Spree - The Alaska Senate went on a big savings spree this session. The Senate made several deposits to the state's rainy day accounts, the Constitutional Budget Reserve and the Statutory Budget Reserve. The total amount of savings this session totals five billion dollars.

For every dollar spent this session another two dollars were saved:

  • $2.6 billion CBR deposit in the FY 08 supplemental budget
  • $1.0 billion Statutory Budget Reserve deposit in the FY 08 supplemental budget
  • $1.0 billion CBR deposit in the FY 09 operating budget
  • $400 million CBR deposit in the FY 08 capital budget

Capital Budget - The Senate passed a capital budget bill that will save, protect and build Alaska from Barrow to Ketchikan. Senate Bill 221, the state's FY 09 capital budget, funds a wide range of public safety, transportation and education projects in a fiscally responsible manner that still saves billions of dollars of the state's surplus oil revenue.

Senate Finance Co-Chair Bert Stedman said it will help move the economy forward and drive private sector jobs. In addition to funding 60 percent of the administration's budget requests, it includes important school, road and public safety projects that were requested by communities all across the state.

The FY 09 capital budget appropriates $556 million of general fund revenue. SB 221 now goes to the House for its consideration.

Long Range Fiscal Plan - The Senate also approved House Bill 125, the Long Range Fiscal Plan bill. The Governor will be required each year to provide a ten year forward estimate of the state's major sources of revenue and uses of funds, in addition to the annual spending plan for the next fiscal year.

HB 125 now goes to the Governor to be signed into law.

Secure Retirement for State Employees ­ A significant step to solving the multibillion dollar shortfall in the state's public employee and teacher retirement systems was also accomplished this week.

House Bill 13 allows the state to utilize a proven pension liability financial mechanism, generally referred to as "Pension Obligation Bonds" (POBs). POBs mean the state can reduce the cost of the paying off the unfunded liabilities already incurred by the public retirement systems.

Pension finance transactions involve borrowing money in the international capital markets at a lower rate of interest than is earned when that money is invested by the state treasury in the public pension trusts. The proceeds reduce the government's liability to the public pension trusts with no increase in the total financial obligations of the state.

HB 13 will also go to the Governor's office to be signed into law.

Clean, More Affordable Energy - Members of the Senate Bipartisan Working Group called on Governor Sarah Palin to consider more options for bringing North Slope natural gas reserves to market.

The Senate Resources Committee introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 22 this week. It calls on the administration to amend its call for the upcoming special session to include in-state gas pipeline proposals and to formulate a plan for the distribution of natural gas throughout the state.

Senate Resources Chairman Charlie Huggins says Alaskans are asking the Legislature to change course and also look at a bullet line and other in-state pipeline options that deliver a plentiful and more affordable energy supply to Alaskans.

Earlier this session, Enstar made a presentation to the Senate Resources Committee on its evolving plan to build a 24 inch gas pipeline from the Foothills region of the North Slope to its distribution network in Southcentral Alaska. Enstar's proposal uses private sector financing and does not seek any state funds.

SCR 22 moved over to the House for its consideration.

Open Caucus ­ The Senate Bipartisan Working Group held another in its series of open caucuses on Tuesday. The topic was House Joint Resolution 28. HJR 28 seeks to turn the state's Constitutional Budget Reserve into an endowment fund. The caucus also discussed other long term fiscal planning issues. The bill is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Purple Heart Trail ­ The Legislature completed work on a bill to honor our wounded veterans. Senate Bill 216, which designates the Alaska Highway from Fairbanks to the Canadian Border a part of the nationwide Purple Heart Trail. The Purple Heart is awarded to soldiers who are killed or wounded by enemy fire, and 44 states have included all or part of their interstate highway system in this honorary designation. SB 216 was sponsored by Senator Johnny Ellis.

Decoration of Honor - The Alaska Legislature unanimously passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 18, a resolution allowing for the presentation of the Alaska Decoration of Honor to the 170 Alaskan service men and women killed in action since statehood. Senator Bill Wielechowski is the prime sponsor. Thirty other legislators signed on as co-sponsors.

Source of News:

Alaska Legislature
Senate Bipartisan Working Group


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska