Children, Education, Public Safety, Roads
Juneau -- The Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2001 operating budget bill on Wednesday. The budget focuses on the funding needs for children, education, public safety and transportation.
"This budget sets priorities on state services that Alaskans value most," said Senate Finance Committee Co-Chair Senator Sean Parnell (R-Anchorage). "Alaskans want healthy children, good schools and universities, safe communities and decent roads. The budget bill adopted today increases funds to those areas and, in many cases, passes these extra funds directly through to citizens and local governments."
One area that has seen a lot of attention is university funding, something Senate Finance Committee member Senator Gary Wilken (R-Fairbanks) consistently champions. "Most of us in the Senate recognize, like most Alaskans realize, that the state's operating budget must reflect a balanced, intelligent measure of spending," said Wilken. "These same Alaskans realize that there are certain areas where investing additional revenues ensures a high level of return to the entire state. That is why we voted to boost support to the University by $8.6 million dollars."
The Senate Finance Committee budget calls for Alaska to spend a total of $2.18 billion from the General Fund in FY01 for state operations, approximately $104.3 million less than the governor's request in his proposed budget. Permanent Fund dividend spending is approximately $41 million higher in the bill, while state agency General Fund spending was reduced by $33 million.
"Most Alaskans expect the Legislature to approach the budget the way they balance their checkbook," said Senate Finance Committee Co-Chair Senator John Torgerson (R-Kasilof). "We made the most responsible choices with the revenues available. What the Senate did today was to reaffirm our responsibility to provide support for essential state services."
The operating budget bill was passed two weeks ahead of schedule and members of the Senate Majority Leadership were pleased with today's controversial vote. "Senator Phillips and others think the operating budget is too large. The Democrats don't think we spent enough," said Senate President Drue Pearce (R-Anchorage). "I think Senator Parnell did an admirable job. He brought a budget to the floor that cuts general fund spending while striking a balance between mean spirited cuts and the insatiable appetite of the bureaucracy."
The Senate Finance budget bill prioritizes funding in these critical areas:
The budget bill now heads to the House for a concurrence vote and then to a conference committee.
Also on Wednesday, the Senate passed legislation authorizing the state to receive and spend funds from the Alaska Mental Health Trust. This bill will head to the House for concurrence with the Senate version.Broadcasters note: Audio comments are available on the Majority Actuality line, 1-800-478-6540
= Sean Parnell, 20 K = John Torgerson, 15 K