Walker proposes budget amendments

  • By Becky Bohrer
  • Wednesday, February 18, 2015 10:53pm
  • News

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Gov. Bill Walker has proposed restoring full service for the state ferry system next year and adding back partial funding for community and regional jails in budget amendments released on Wednesday.

The amendments speak to the challenge facing the state as the administration and lawmakers try to cut the budget amid projected multibillion-dollar deficits without creating unintended consequences.

The ferry funding, about $6.3 million, would be pulled from other parts of the transportation department budget. Walker, in a news release, said many families have already bought ferry tickets for once-in-a-lifetime vacations to Alaska, and he wants to ensure that service is available to them and Alaskans in the coming year.

Jeremy Woodrow, a transportation department spokesman, said the details for how the shift in funds would affect other programs in the department were still being worked out.

Walker also proposed restoring $7 million to the community and regional jails program. The administration had proposed eliminating contracts for $10.5 million associated with 15 regional and community jails, which provide short-term confinement of people who face state charges until those individuals can be taken to the nearest state correctional facility by Alaska State Troopers.

The proposal raised concerns about the effects on communities and the troopers, who are facing budget cuts of their own.

According to information from Walker’s budget office, the Department of Corrections would renegotiate the contracts for the actual cost per bed per day. Some of the money also could be used to cover additional prisoner-transport costs.

The amendments also included proposed grants aimed at tackling homelessness, among other issues.

There is a proposed $20 million reduction for Medicaid by cutting costs. But the budget office, in its backup material, says many of the proposed efforts would require new regulations and fees along with public hearings and consultation with tribes.

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