Juneau -- The Alaska House of Representatives Friday passed House Bill 312, the House Finance Committee version of the State Operating Budget. The approval came two days after the Republican-led House Majority turned-back repeated amendments by Minority members seeking to increase total spending by over $86 million.
"This bill began life as a virtual mirror of the current Fiscal Year's budget," said Representative Eldon Mulder (R-Anchorage), Co-Chair of the House Finance Committee. "Rather than simply throwing money at the challenges facing Alaska, the Finance subcommittee members were able to examine the results the Administration has been able to achieve with the money they already have. For the first time, we were able to use actual results in establishing a reliable baseline for our allocations."
The budget was written by the House Finance Committee, which in January broke with the tradition of working directly from the Governor's proposed budget, which had called for spending increases in excess of $100 million.
"We had no choice but to take the unprecedented action of setting aside the Governor's budget, after the Knowles Administration ignored the clear message of Alaska's voters in last September's budget advisory vote by proposing yet another huge spending increase," said Representative Gene Therriault (R-North Pole), Co-Chair of the House Finance Committee. "It is clear that the Governor made a political decision when he proposed throwing open the State's checkbook and driving the deficit up by more than $100 million. The House has now responded with a rational plan to cover necessary services while demanding increased efficiency."
"This budget represents the efforts of hundreds of Alaskans and shows what can be done in an atmosphere of cooperation," said Representative Con Bunde (R-Anchorage), Vice Chair of the House Finance Committee. "All the people involved in this process, from the legislators serving on the various subcommittees, to the subcommittee staffers, to the Department representatives, to the members of the public who testified and provided input deserve praise and thanks for their hard work."
This is the final year of the Republican-led Majority's five-year "Commitment to Alaska." The Majority pledged to reduce State General Fund spending by $250 million over that five-year period. During the first four years of the Commitment, the Majority reduced GF spending by some $220 million, leaving approximately $30 million remaining The budget approved by the House, which reduces GF spending in FY 2001 by over $26 million dollars, now moves to the Senate which it is anticipated will approve its own version of an operating budget. The two versions will, in all likelihood, be sent to a Joint House-Senate Conference Committee.
The budget passed the House 23-14. The House also passed House Bill 313, the Mental Health Budget, unanimously.
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Budget Talking Points