Walker cuts $170M, 300 positions in budget

Gov. Bill Walker released a proposed fiscal year 2016 operating budget with $5.2 billion in general fund spending.

The governor’s budget plan released Feb. 5 also eliminates 300 state positions next fiscal year that begins July 1.

The unrestricted general fund amount is $4.6 billion, about $170 million less than the current fiscal year 2015 unrestricted spend, a 3.6 percent cut.

Walker said state employee layoffs would be minimized to the extent possible through eliminating vacant positions and not filling others as they open up.

“There are cuts in here, and some will be painful. Our state right now has a $3.6 billion budget deficit, leading us to draw about $10 million every single day from savings,” Walker said in a release. “I want to be up-front with Alaskans throughout this process.”

His overall proposed operating budget is just more than $12.1 billion, a 1.9 percent increase over fiscal year 2015, primarily because of a 7.7 percent increase in federal funding.

The general fund cuts are not a surprise; Walker talked continually about cutting state spend in his campaign and during his first two months in office. However, they are not as significant as had been speculated. The governor asked state commissioners to review how 5 to 8 percent budget cuts to each department would impact operations. He floated the possibility of cutting state government by 25 percent over four years in his State of the Budget address to the Legislature Jan. 22.

Office of Management and Budget Director Pat Pitney said agencies will combine services wherever possible to maximize efficiency and minimize the impact of cuts.

“I cut 11 percent of my executive office (budget) through leaner staffing and operations,” Walker said.

On Jan. 22 he released a $1.4 billion proposed capital budget, which cut the state unrestricted general fund portion by 91 percent from the fiscal year 2013 level.

Now it’s the legislators’ turn — the state appropriators — to meld a final budget over the remaining 10 weeks of the legislative session.

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected].

11/18/2016 - 2:34pm