JUNEAU, Alaska — The Senate Finance Committee plans public testimony this week as it crafts its version of the state operating budget. The goal is for the full Senate to vote on a spending bill Friday.
Senate subcommittees proposed deeper cuts than the House for a number of agencies, which many in the House expected. The subcommittee recommendations include proposals such as eliminating general fund spending for public broadcasting and further cuts to Alaska’s ferry system. A proposed cut to public broadcasting in the House drew strong public opposition, prompting the House to restore much of its proposed cut. The House also cobbled together funds from various sources to try to ease the impact of ferry service cuts.
Legislators have said tough decisions need to be made in the face of projected multibillion-dollar budget deficits. Low oil prices have exacerbated the budget situation. There has been no real move to look for additional revenue without steps to reduce the size of state government and spending.
“As we make cuts, everybody goes, Yeah, that’s good. But no, don’t cut this or don’t cut that. And you go, well, to get to a decent number, everything’s on the table,” Senate President Kevin Meyer said.
If the House does not agree to the budget that passes the Senate, the bill will go to a conference committee, where negotiators will work to reach a compromise.
The budget is one thing to watch for this week. Here are two others:
The House Education Committee is scheduled to hear legislation Monday that would clear the way for schools to approve fundraisers involving the sale of foods that do not meet federal nutrition standards.
In her sponsor statement for HB 163, Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, says school fundraisers are confined to “selling carrot sticks and rice cakes to generate revenue.”
The standards do not apply to foods sold after school, on the weekend or off campus, according to information provided by the state department of education. For example, it would be permissible for a fundraiser that involved selling chocolate bars door-to-door. Fundraisers with food sold on campus during school hours up until 30 minutes after the end of the school day currently must fall under the standards, department spokesman Eric Fry said by email.
On Tuesday, House State Affairs is set to hear a bill from Rep. Lynn Gattis to repeal a state policy that a portion of funding for capital projects be set aside to buy art for use in state buildings and other public facilities. The bill, HB 160, would repeal a requirement that a portion of the construction cost of a building or facility be reserved for art in schools, on ferries and in court or other public buildings. Gattis, R-Wasilla, said in her sponsor statement that $9.1 million was spent on the art program by the departments of transportation and education and the court system between 2004 and 2013.