Republicans Pass Budget, Democrats Cry Foul
Minority Dems object to cuts for education, behavioral health
ANCHORAGE - The House of Representatives approved an operating budget for the next fiscal year, over the objections of minority Democrats who said it does not do enough for schoolchildren and people who need behavioral health services.
According to the Republican-led House majority, it's time for austerity in state budgeting.
But for most of the nearly four-hour debate, Republicans were on the defensive against accusations that they are standing by while Alaskans' quality of life erodes.
Among several failed amendments, Democrats sought to restore funding cuts in pre-kindergarten programs.
Representative Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, responded: "Absolutely, pre-K is valuable, and that's why we offer so many different opportunities in the state so that parents can pick the program that best matches their work schedule."
There also was concern about an $8 million cut in behavioral health care grants.
"There's nobody that wants to cut funding to kids that are disabled, mentally handicapped, to seniors,” said Representative Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, who oversaw the health and social services budget. “Nobody wants to do that. But it's going to get worse, it's going to get more difficult if we do not take steps today."
The bill passed 29-to-8 and now moves to the Senate for consideration.