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Senate Republican Caucus Responds to Governor’s Goals in Supplemental Budget

JUNEAU - Members of the Senate Republican Caucus expressed their support Feb. 1 for many of the goals contained within Governor Sean Parnell's FY2010 supplemental budget released today while recognizing room for increased savings and encouraging a more long-term view of state budget surpluses.

Among other spending requests, the supplemental budget bill would finish repaying the Constitutional Budget Reserve, forward-fund K-12 education for FY2011, and, in a separate bill, ask for an additional $100 million for deferred maintenance projects.

"While I recognize the importance of addressing some of the pressing needs outlined in the Governor's supplemental budget, I strongly encourage that any spending proposals based on using a budget surplus, in this or any other year, look at that 'surplus' in the context of a three- or five-year spending plan," said Sen. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage. "I think the question of whether or not it is truly a 'surplus' - if it is sandwiched between two or four years of deficit or even flat spending - is one we should be asking ourselves more often."

Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, said he is concerned about the rising cost of formula-driven spending. "I recognize that programs such as Medicaid are expanding in numbers of users, and that is reflected in the $44 million requested for formula programs. I note that the Governor did not request funding for an increase in eligibility for Denali KidCare because the bill to do so has not passed. While he and I disagree on expanding the program from 175 to 200 percent of poverty level, he may be amenable to making such an increase contingent on having a budget surplus."

Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, said he would support the deferred maintenance bill and expects the projects included in it to be in the public's interest. "It makes a lot of sense to get funding approved for projects that can go to contract this spring. At the same time, the Governor needs to take another look at his $75 million request for a new crime lab, which we don't need. That project should be on the deferred maintenance list, and the existing crime lab should be remodeled and expanded at a much lower cost, not the current $75 million projected for a new lab."

Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, agreed that the Governor's first priority should be saving surplus dollars. "I support the Governor's request to return the $402 million to the CBR that we have borrowed over the lean years. That is what the CBR is there for. I also support any efforts to park more of the surplus in the statutory budget reserve. While that reserve is accessible with only a majority vote, it shows good faith and statesmanship on the part of legislators and the Governor to set the surplus aside. We anticipate more lean years for Alaska, with the Trans Alaska Pipeline dropping in through-put by six percent or more a year. Alaska's leaders have done a good job in the past of saving for future generations - through the Permanent Fund, the CBR, and other set-asides - and I think we need to continue with that attitude."

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