Budget officials grilled on 10-year plan

  • By Becky Bohrer
  • Monday, February 10, 2014 10:33pm
  • News

JUNEAU — Members of the House Finance Committee grilled state budget officials Monday on how realistic their 10-year budget plan is.

The plan drafted by Gov. Sean Parnell’s budget office is intended as a planning tool. The different scenarios include various oil price and production estimates and envision general fund spending of $5.6 billion a year after fiscal 2015. That’s slightly less than what Parnell initially proposed for his spending plan for next year.

Committee co-chair Alan Austerman said that doesn’t seem to fit with reality with the billions of dollars in increased costs the Legislature is anticipating or discussing.

John Boucher, a senior economist with the Office of Management and Budget, said it’s challenging to look out five years and project what Medicaid will cost, for example, or what the state will be paying for retirement.

But he said the plan does bring value because discussions are needed to decide what will have to be sacrificed if spending must remain flat to maintain reserves. “That’s the conversation, I think, and the difficult task I think that we face,” Boucher said.

Austerman, R-Kodiak, repeated his belief the state cannot cut its way to prosperity.

“This state, with a flat budget for the next 10 years, will not grow to the degree that it should grow to establish a tax base that will help carry us to the future,” he said.

Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, said a major portion of the state budget is personnel. With cost-of-living adjustments and other pay increases, he said it’s unrealistic to assume the state can maintain flat spending unless the state begins cutting entire programs.

“Just the increases for the personnel costs alone, I mean, that doesn’t fit with what you’re saying,” Thompson said.

Parnell’s budget director, Karen Rehfeld, said employees and departments have been made aware of the state’s fiscal outlook, which she said has helped to temper some expectations.

She said, over time, reducing the operating budget will probably mean looking at fewer employees. She said merit and other pay issues will probably be looked at as well.

“But the reality is, we’re not going to be able to continue to do business the same way and meet some of these spending targets that we’re talking about,” she said.

More in News

Signs direct voters at the Kenai No. 3 precinct on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Signs direct voters at the Kenai No. 3 precinct for Election Day on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Local candidates report support from state PACs

Labor unions and the National Education Association are among the groups putting money into Kenai Peninsula state election races

Signs and examples on the recycling super sack at the Cook Inletkeeper Community Action Studio show which plastics are desired as part of the project in Soldotna, Alaska, on Aug. 11, 2022. Plastics from types 1, 2, 4 and 5 can be deposited.(Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Local nonprofit accepting plastics for synthetic lumber project

The super sack receptacles can be found on either side of Soldotna

This July 28, 2022, photo shows drag queen Dela Rosa performing in a mock election at Cafecito Bonito in Anchorage, Alaska, where people ranked the performances by drag performers. Several organizations are using different methods to teach Alaskans about ranked choice voting, which will be used in the upcoming special U.S. House election. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Groups get creative to help Alaska voters with ranked voting

Organizations have gotten creative in trying to help voters understand how to cast their ballot, as the mock election featuring drag performers shows

A school bus outside of Kenai Central High School advertises driver positions on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Staff shortage, gas prices change school bus routes

The changes do not apply to the district’s special education students

The cast of “Tarzan” rides the Triumvirate Theatre float during the Independence Day parade in downtown Kenai, Alaska on Monday, July 4, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
The show goes on as Triumvirate seeks funding for new theater

The troupe has staged shows and events and is looking to debut a documentary as it raise funds for new playhouse

Aaron Surma, the executive director for National Alliance on Mental Illness Juneau and the Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition, leads a safety plan workshop Tuesday night hosted by NAMI and the Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition. The workshop was a collaborative brainstorming session with Juneau residents about how to create a safety plan that people can use to help someone who is experiencing a mental health or suicide crisis. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Study shows a rise in anxiety and depression among children in Alaska

Increase may indicate growing openness to discussing mental health, according to experts

Alaska Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer addresses election information and misinformation during a press conference on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. (Screenshot)
With a week to go, officials work to clear up election confusion

Officials provided updated ballot statistics, fielded questions from reporters and clarified misconceptions about the current election cycle

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State reports 21 new COVID deaths; cases down from last week

20 of the reported deaths took place from May to July

A closeup of one of the marijuana plants at Greatland Ganja in Kasilof, Alaska, as seen on March 19, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly streamlines process for marijuana establishment license applications

License applications will now go straight to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly for consideration

Most Read