Knowles spending plan, amount draw jeers from Republican side

Republican legislative leaders were predictably critical of proposals put forth by Gov. Tony Knowles in his State of the State address Jan. 16.

The governor’s plan to increase spending came in for the heaviest criticism.

"When you’re in a hole, the first thing you do is stop digging," said Senate President Rick Halford, R-Chugiak. "It simply doesn’t make sense for the governor to dramatically increase spending when we’re facing a $1 billion deficit."

House Speaker Brian Porter said, "I’d like to tell you I support every part of the governor’s speech, but I can’t. The very first thing he mentioned was increased spending, and that is the very first thing Alaskans tell us they want to curtail."

Porter, R-Anchorage, also said he was disappointed the governor didn’t include a proposal involving Alaska Permanent Fund earnings. The fund was created to help sustain public services when oil production declined, he said.

Porter also said that he supported a personal income tax, but he was sure a majority of the House Republicans did not.

House Finance Committee co-chairman Rep. Eldon Mulder challenged the governor’s figures on a proposed $180 million increase in the state operating budget. Mulder, R-Anchorage, said his tally showed the increases really amount to $300 million in increased general fund spending.

Knowles has proposed about $190 million in new social services and education spending, $55 million for Medicaid and $47 million in his homeland security initiative, Mulder said.

When combined with expected requests for supplementals to the budget, the increases will hit $300 million, he said.

"Proposing $400 million in new revenues and $300 million in new spending only nets $100 million," Mulder said. "It doesn’t get you very far," in addressing the fiscal gap.

Senate Finance Committee co-chairman Dave Donley, R-Anchorage, said 26 states have responded to projected budget deficits by "implementing well-constructed budget reductions and by setting priorities for state services."

Donley urged Knowles to instruct state agencies to prepare contingency plans for reduced budgets.

01/27/2002 - 8:00pm