SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Senate Passes Operating Budget Emphasizing Savings, Energy, and Restrained Growth
$9.5 billion budget includes $2 billion in savings, reduced agency growth, energy relief, education and debt retirement


April 04, 2012

(SitNews) Juneau, Alaska - Today, the Alaska State Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2013 Operating and Mental Health Budgets, House Bill 284 and House Bill 285.

The $9.50 billion Operating Budget emphasizes many of the Senate Bipartisan Working Group’s top priorities:  Energy Relief, Savings before Spending, Education, Health and Debt Retirement.  The Operating Budget, which is used to run the state’s daily activities and programs, includes $6.28 billion in general funds, $2.01 billion in federal funds and $1.21 billion in other state funds. That’s about $22 million in general funds or about $67 million overall less than the governor’s proposed Operating Budget.

During his floor speech today, Senate Finance Co-Chair Senator Hoffman (D-Bethel) emphasized how the “Savings Spree” began when the Senate Bipartisan Working Group formed in 2006.  In fact, in 2005, the balance of the state’s undesignated savings funds was $8.1 billion.  Under the leadership of the Senate Bipartisan Working Group, that has now grown to $21.15 billion.   

The Senate Finance Committee also achieved a milestone in controlling agency spending.  For the past several years, state agencies have grown around 7-percent per year.  This year, members of the Senate Finance Committee along with the Administration and the House Finance Committee, worked together to reduce that growth to around 3.6%.

Corrections saw the biggest increase in the amount of actual money due to the Goose Creek Correctional Center for adding 192 news positions, plus other additions for probation offices and substance abuse programs.  The Department of Fish and Game saw the biggest increase percentage wise, with 13 new programs added.

Some of the other key provisions added by the Senate include:

  • $2 billion into the Statutory Budget Reserve, the state’s savings account
  • $500 million to pay down unfunded liabilities in the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS)
  • $500 million to pay down unfunded liabilities in the Teachers Retirement System (TRS
  • $50 million to pay down unfunded liabilities in the Judicial Retirement Trust Fund
  • $50 million into the Marine Highway Vessel Replacement Fund
  • $5 million to the state’s Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • $400,000 for Best Beginnings Program to strengthen and expand early learning partnerships, expand the Imagination Libraries, and provide additional parent resources to increase public engagement in the early literacy and learning
  • $295,000 Rehabilitation & Enhancement of Chinook Salmon
  • $250,000 for the Parents as Teachers Program to support pre-kindergarten, parent-based programs throughout the state
  • $250,000 for Alaska Legal Services
  • 200,000 to help Essential Air Service return to Little Diomede

124 people publicly testified to the Senate Finance Committee on the Operating Budget.   That’s the smallest number in the last four years.   The largest number of people came forward in support of Pre-Kindergarten programs, with 26 testifying in support of early childhood learning.

The Operating and Mental Health Budgets will now head back to the House.  If the House does not concur with the changes made by the Senate, both sides will appoint conference committees to work out the differences.  Once as the conference committees are chosen, the 24-hour rule goes into effect which means that only 24-hours of notice is needed to schedule a hearing for legislation.


On the Web:

The full FY2013 Operating Budget and how it breaks down

House Bill 284 

House Bill 285

Source of News: 

Alaska Senate Bipartisan Working Group


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

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