Budget to be big battle of legislative session
Alaska legislators are returning to Juneau for the start of the 2002 legislative session, which begins Jan. 14.
It looks to be a bruising session, dominated by a fight over money between the Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat.
Knowles is pushing for spending $189 million more in the state operating budget than in the current year for various state programs. Of this amount, $100 million is needed to replace lost federal funds and to maintain existing levels of state services in the face of inflation, the governor said.
Lawmakers are looking at a projected budget deficit this year of $900 million and $1.2 billion for the next state fiscal year, the budget for which legislators must prepare this spring.
It is Knowles’ last year as governor, the required end of his two terms and eight years in office. Mindful of his legacy as governor, Knowles will fight hard for his proposals.
Republican leaders in the state House and Senate, less concerned about the governor’s legacy, will take a dim view of the $189 million price tag for what Knowles wants this year.