Alaska Legislature waiting to publicly discuss cuts to its own budget
This week, the Alaska House of Representatives will finish up scrutinizing the budget for cuts. It will put out specific proposals for reductions to state agencies like health and social services and education this week. But when it comes to cutting the Legislature’s own budget, Sen. Pete Kelly, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, says that won’t happen until later.
“It is not the measure of the budget health of the state of Alaska the process by which we cut our budget,” Kelly said at a press conference Monday morning.
Kelly wouldn’t put a target number on cuts to the operating budget or to the legislative spending. He said scrutinizing the Legislature’s budget is one of the last parts of the process.
“It will be towards the end, it’s one of those things that we do, we do the university towards the end, we also do the Legislature and the governor’s budgets toward the end with a few other insularly agencies,” Kelly explained.
The Legislature’s budget is a fraction of the state’s more than $4 billion operating budget. But lawmakers are asking Alaskans to pitch in, and other agencies to tighten their spending, without discussing publicly how they plan to do the same.
When asked how the Legislature will be an example to other agencies for finding efficiencies, Kelly responded, “The same way we were last year. We cut a lot from our budget last year and we’ll cut some this year.”
But numbers provided by the Legislative Finance Division Monday show the Legislature took among the lowest percentage of cuts to any state agency last year – – a 5.4 percent reduction, compared to a 31.5 percent decrease in the budget for Commerce, Community & Economic Development, or the 29.1 percent decrease in funding for Military & Veterans’ Affairs.
House Speaker Mike Chenault said discussions on how to trim the Legislature’s budget are happening in private, but the two bodies haven’t been able to agree.
“I’ve approached the Senate with a couple of ideas, haven’t been real receptive yet, but we’re working on it,” Chenault said at a press conference Thursday.
When asked whether or not he’d considered cost saving measures being put into place by the judicial branch, like furloughs and closures on Friday afternoons, Chenault laughed and asked “You think we should close on Fridays?”
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