House passes state budget with CBR funding; Senate adjourns until Sunday
Updated Saturday, 8:35 p.m.
Sometime around 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, Alaska’s House of Representatives passed the 2016 operating budget 32 to 8, with the minority Democrats split and Rep. Lora Reinbold voting no. In a vote of 39 to 1, the House also voted to use the Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR) to fund the budget; again Rep. Reinbold voting no.
“Alaskans, brace yourself, there is a fiscal storm on the horizon,” said Reinbold, speaking in opposition to the size of the budget.
A deal was struck to get enough support from Democrats to gain access to the CBR. The deal, with $30 million dollars in additional spending, includes restoring $5 million of the $7 million cut to the University of Alaska system, and $1.75 million to the marine highway system.
“We improved education, not as much as I would’ve liked but as much as we could,” said Rep. Les Gara, referring to the additional $2.7 million that will go to teaching and learning support, pre-K grants and the “parents as teachers” program. That money is on top of the $16.5 million being added to the Base Student Allocation (BSA) to bring funding back up to a level that schools were expecting for 2016.
The Office of Children’s Services will use $2.5 million — freed up because of new federal funding — for front line social workers.
“We passed the amendment, finally, to help fix the foster care system and give children a chance at life and be able to investigate child abuse,” Gara explained. “It was a compromise, it certainly didn’t have all of the budget cuts, to oil tax credits, that would’ve saved us a lot of money.”
Minority Leader Rep. Chris Tuck says he and Finance committee co-chair Rep. Mark Neuman had very little sleep over the last couple of days as a final deal was worked out. Still, Tuck says he could not vote in support of the budget.
“I’m not happy with the restrictive language on there on the Medicaid expansion, that was really handicapping the governor from being able to do things for our sick here in Alaska,” Tuck said. “The Bragaw extension, $17.3 million for only seven-tenths of a mile, that is something that we can’t afford at this point right now.”
The budget also honors state employee bargaining agreements and cost of living for non-covered employees. Though, Gov. Walker’s administration is required to find the money to pay for the wage increases by cutting elsewhere. Also, $250,000 was restored to public broadcasting and $2.8 million was restored to the senior benefits payment program.
The budget now moves to the Senate for approval. And some Senate leaders say they’re disappointed with the bill the House passed.
Sen. Pete Kelly says the House’s budget just used the CBR for “a few pet projects.”
“What they sent us just kind of doesn’t work from our perspective. So, it’s going to take a while,” said Kelly. “We’ve been given a $15-million solution to a $3-billion problem; doesn’t work.”
State employees are just days out from receiving potential layoff notices if Alaska lawmakers can’t agree on a budget.
The post House passes state budget with CBR funding; Senate adjourns until Sunday appeared first on KTVA 11.