Sen. Finance Meets with Walker Administration to Address Budget
October 07, 2015
In a letter to the state’s budget director, Pat Pitney, State Senators submitted 12 questions to gauge the administration’s progress toward addressing the state’s fiscal crisis.
“Alaskans will be ready to support new revenue measures only after significant reductions are made to the budget,” said Senator Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks). “Finding efficiencies in government agencies isn’t going to be enough this time. The Senate Finance Committee is not looking for new taxes to pay for government. We’re looking for less government.”
The administration didn’t outline an overarching vision for the budget, but did confirm its plans to reduce funding for the Department of Health and Social Services, maintain current levels of education funding with increases to per-pupil spending, and its support for flat funding in state employee contracts, with overall budget reductions estimated to be around 3 percent.
“[Monday’s] meeting reiterated the dire situation we are facing with our budget,” said Senator Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River). “Time is running out for the administration to provide the Legislature with specific details, outlining their plan to address the state’s budget deficit.”
A budget proposal is expected to be submitted to the Legislature ahead of the December 15 statutory deadline, according to the administration.
“Based on yesterday's meeting and many unanswered questions, the Senate Finance Committee is looking forward to a written response from the Administration to the questions asked in our letter, as well as those posed by committee members,” MacKinnon said. “I look forward to receiving this information soon, giving the Legislature adequate time to fully consider all possible options.”
The administration reiterated its position that cuts alone will not close the budget gap, and said its plan will include combination of new taxes, use of the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve Account (ERA), and budget cuts, as well as a change to the oil and gas tax credit system. But Legislators believe bigger spending cuts are needed before Alaskans will consider new taxes.
The Senate Finance Committee plans to continue working closely with the administration to find solutions to Alaska’s budget woes.
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Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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