On Thursday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott said that Gov. Sean Parnell was misleading the public about the state budget in a fundraising email that Parnell’s campaign sent out bragging about his fiscal record. “As Washington D.C. continues to overspend and overregulate, Governor Sean Parnell cut state general fund spending by $1.1 billion in the 2015 budget,” the fundraising email said.
Mallott, who isn’t known so far for his brass-knuckles responses, fired back: “Under Sean Parnell, Alaska has undergone an unprecedented fiscal collapse. Parnell took a $5 billion surplus and turned it into a $2 billion deficit,” Mallott wrote.
Indeed, Parnell is on tricky ground here. While he can technically say that he cut the budget, it’s only because his past budgets were so big. Too, the state took a whole category out of that budget. In previous years, the state’s contribution to the state’s retirement program had been in the operating budget. In fiscal year 2015, it’s not. In part, that’s because the state took an unprecedented $3 billion from the Constitutional Budget Reserve and put it towards the ballooning retirement program.
Many lauded Parnell for pushing, and for the Legislature passing, the one-time payment. But though it was likely wise fiscal policy, at least some portion of that should have been included in the budget in order to get an accurate comparison to previous years’ budgets. (See Brad Keithley’s blog post on that issue here.)
For his part, Mallott also appears to be doing some creative accounting. He leaves out the $3 billion when he refers to “liquidated budget surpluses.”
What is true is that under Parnell, the state is going into nearly $2 billion deficit spending. And at the same time, Parnell who signs the budget, as well as the Legislature which proposes it, have continually excoriated Washington D.C. for overspending. In April, Parnell signed a resolution passed by the Legislature calling for a federal balanced budget.
“Now it is time the federal government takes the necessary steps to address its out-of-control debt. America remains on an unsustainable spending path and we cannot rely on Congress or the president to fix this problem,” he said.
Contact Amanda Coyne at firstname.lastname@example.org