Walker’s budget cuts spending again
Hidden behind the Dec. 9 unveiling of Gov. Bill Walker’s long-term state fiscal and tax plan was the release of his 2017 fiscal year budgets.
The total unrestricted general fund spend for both the operating and capital budgets would be just more than $4.8 billion, down 3.1 percent from slightly more than $5 billion for the current 2016 fiscal year, as proposed by the Walker administration.
Statewide agency operations would be cut by $140 million in the unrestricted portion of the budget, a cut of 3.4 percent.
Overall, the operating budget would be reduced by about $100 million, as a $38 million appropriation to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. is needed to continue the state’s work towards the Alaska LNG Project, Office of Management and Budget Director Pat Pitney said.
Republican leaders in the Legislature have said they will demand budget cuts deeper than Walker is proposing if taxes the governor also proposed are going to be a part of the solution to the state’s $3.5 billion budget deficit.
When last year's cuts are included, all told, state spending would be cut by nearly $1 billion over two years under Walker’s latest budget proposal.
The capital budget “looks and feels a lot like last year’s capital budget,” Pitney said, meaning it will be minimal and rely heavily on federal dollars.
The state’s $195 million will cover matching dollars for the feds $957 million capital investment in Alaska, small contributions to energy and housing programs, deferred maintenance of state facilities and some school repairs, according to the governor’s budget.
The capital budget funds reconstruction of the Bethel Regional High School kitchen, recently damaged by fire at $7.1 million, as well as construction of a new Kachemak Selo K-12 school at $10.8 million, which Pitney said is the most needed school replacement in Alaska.
More significant capital projects across the state will be rolled into a multi-year general obligation, or GO, bond package that will have to be approved by the Legislature first and then voters in the upcoming general elections, Revenue Commissioner Randy Hoffbeck said.
Elwood Brehmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.