Legislative leaders call on Walker to immediately enact budget-cutting policies

Leaders of the Alaska state Legislature wrote a letter to Gov. Bill Walker, urging him to immediately enact policies to cut the budget.

The letter was signed by Senate President Kevin Meyer, Speaker of the House Mike Chenault, incoming Senate Finance Co-Chairs Senators Anna MacKinnon and Pete Kelly and House Finance Co-Chairs Representatives Steve Thompson and Mark Neuman. The letter calls on the governor to, among other things, implement a hiring freeze, restrict non-essential travel, and re-appropriate unused capital funds. It also calls on Walker to introduce amends to the operating budget as soon as possible instead of waiting until the statutory deadline of February 18.

Some legislators that I’ve spoken with have been surprised that the governor hadn’t taken on some of these initiatives on his own according shortly after taken office on Dec. 1.

Read the press release in full below and for the letter click here.

Due to the urgency to reduce state spending in light of falling oil prices, Senate and House Joint Leadership delivered a letter to Governor Bill Walker (I-Alaska) this week, requesting immediate budget implementations, including travel reductions and a freeze on hiring new state employees. The letter also requests that amendments for the FY 2016 operating budget be delivered as close to the start of session as possible, rather than waiting until the statutory deadline of February 18.

The letter was signed by incoming Senate President Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage), Speaker of the House Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski), as well the incoming Senate Finance Co-Chairls Senators Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River/East Anchorage) and Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) and House Finance Co-Chairs Representatives Steve Thompson (R-Fairbanks) and Mark Neuman (R-Big Lake).

“For the past two years, we have been focused on stabilizing and then reducing the budget,” said Senator Meyer.  “With the recent drop in oil prices and the fact that 90 percent of the state’s discretionary budget is funded by oil production, the need to cut spending has become even more urgent.  That’s why we are requesting immediate action from Governor Walker on certain issues and asking for him to expedite his submission of the budgets to the Legislature.”

The letter suggested the following actions:

  • Implement immediate hiring freeze including all department vacancies
  • Limit agency travel to essential administrative duties or emergency response
  • Request departments produce FY 2015 accounting report for first six months of the fiscal year to see which agencies are working within the budget structure, which agencies are in danger of exceeding budget and thus requiring a supplemental budget, and which agencies have far greater resources available to them than necessary to carry out agency mission
  • Identify targeted reductions in discretionary agency operations, while preserving funding for essential services and all ongoing gas line and other statewide projects critical to education, energy security, infrastructure and the public safety of Alaskans
  • Review capital appropriations authorized more than five fiscal years ago and make recommendations to re-appropriate funds for projects that have been delayed, are not moving forward, or that should not move forward in this fiscal environment because of the phased nature or cost of the project.

The letter continued:

“Further, we understand you have suspended work on the statutorily required ten-year fiscal plans, which demonstrate how you intend to balance budgets for each of the next ten years. Given the current fiscal situation, we respectfully request that these fiscal plans are completed by the beginning of the legislative session to be used in the fiscal policy and budget discussions during the upcoming legislative session.”

“We appreciate that he’s still settling in, assembling his cabinet and learning the scope of his office,” said Speaker Chenault. “At the same time, under today’s fiscal situation, we intend to hit the ground running once the gavel falls in Juneau. We only have 90 days to enact a budget; our Finance Committee Co-Chairs want departments before their subcommittees as soon as possible, ready to begin the discussions and negotiations needed to bring down operating costs.”


26 thoughts on “Legislative leaders call on Walker to immediately enact budget-cutting policies

  1. Scott Ogan

    For the record, It is a matter of public record, like Gov. Walker and his AG just did with their personal conflicts, I properly disclosed my conflict, assigned any issue affecting the company I worked for to Sen. Dyson as chair of a subcommittee on the subject, did not attend the sub committee hearings, and during the full committee hearing on the issue, left the room so I did not vote on it. On the Senate floor, I disclosed my conflict, there was objection so I had to vote on it, but I did not debate it.

    I did that before it was cool (post FB)

    I think people that hurl accusations cloaked in an avatar are the one who are ethically challenged!

  2. Andy


    I can’t agree more. The same fiscally insane group hiding behind fiscal conservative monikers are now asking for spending cuts? Wow….talk about a bunch of hypocritical hucksters trying to cover their political tracks. Lets spin the past and make it seem as if we are budgetary hawks, absolute ballsy bombastic bravado.

    I am constantly amazed how politicians can lie, cheat and steal their way to power, then make it look like it is the other guys fault. They were at the wheel when this fiscal train wreck was steaming its way into bankruptcy, blowing the horn loudly when passing by during re-election time.

    How about cutting the LIO as well? Oh no they say, we must have an opulent abode to house ourselves and staff so we can party downtown whilst receiving our per diems for no apparent reason. Lets spend a bazillion dollars to renovate ratty property into a special place for the anointed ones and their sycophantic staff to flop overnight after a drinking

  3. Ruth R

    While your at it ask Chenault what the return on investment is on the $70,000 smoking shack he made sure the legislatures got in Juneau..

  4. Anonymous

    Says the guy who revolved into a state job after a shameful effort to subvert your public office.

    What exactly is it you do there at DNR again?

  5. Billiam

    Publish the salaries of the legislative staff. Their pay has dramatically risen over the past 10 years. They travel across the state and country at an alarming rate. Will they face wage freezes and hiring restrictions? Will their travel be cut? How many went to conferences last year and why? They are not elected.

  6. Billiam

    Thank you for saying what I have been thinking. The Republicans have been in charge of the House and Senate Finance Committees for 22 years. They’ve been in control of the Governor’s office for 12. And NOW they are “demanding” the new governor take action NOW. He’s been in office less than 30 days and they send this disingenuous letter making demands?

    This is all in an attempt to make us forget they are the ones that dug this hole we’re in.

    They want to tax us and take our PFD and then they will blame Gov Walker. It will only work if we let them.

    They must think we’re stupid to not know their game.

  7. Gerry G

    Governor Walker who has been on the job for less than two months gets a letter from the very same elected officials that have been draining the savings account of the state with their unbriddled spending and he’s suppose to roll over and do as they say or what? This is nothing more than political blovating. They have been financial failures of the state resources chasing unicorns at every opportunity and we are suppose to believe they NOW after millions thrown away on legislative remodels and bridges to nowhere are demanding savings in hiring freezes. Let’s start by freezing their own budgets, rolling back their own office expenses and junkets. How is that return on $70,000 investment in the legislative smoking hut going Rep. Chenault anyway?

  8. Mark

    Tranor, you are the one who is ‘inept and incompetent. You have an expectation that the incoming Walker Administration is going to have all the Budget mapped out in 3 weeks ? Go back and play with your marbles little one.

  9. Forecast

    Well, “Idiot Detector”, maybe you should read up on psychological theory of projection. Maybe you never made it to college where you would have learned about such things in your Freshman year…

    Funny you defend the Corrupt Bastards Club, and ignore all of their well documented failures… but you want to know your biggest mistake? Doing battle with people that are smarter, and better educated than you.

    Let me take you to school. You fail to grasp that the false dichotomy that was created in the SB- 21 versus ACES nonsense. The legislature could have written SB-21 so that it was not an unconstitutional, bankrupting giveaway that it is.

    But they did not. They wrote a bill that was a giveaway of immense proportions.

    Rather than lay out how bad SB-21 is, I’ll give you a homework assignment.

    Tell us the severance revenue SB-21 is expected to earn in FY2015.

    Then tell us the gross value of the oil being removed over that same time period.

    I know all the answers, but we will see how sincere you by your answers.

    One final clue, for you: The gross value of the oil being removed is far, far beyond the severance revenue. Alaska would NOT have a budget deficit even with ANS at $60 if the CBC had written SB-21 in a way that followed the Alaska Constitution.

  10. Tom McGrath

    You can not say it often enough, “policies and processes have to be continually looked at to insure you accomplish your mission in as a fiscally prudent manner as possible”. Things change in business and government on a continual basis but if a person is working “in” their business instead of “on ” their business they may not realize potential savings as quickly as they should. There is that old saying that you can not see the forest for the trees. Very true.

    You have to look from the 40,000 foot level from time to time. It is good for Governor Walker to hear this from as many places as possible. Little bit of the pot calling the kettle black in this case? Sure, but it needs to be done. I hope that Governor Walker appoints a savings leader who is not from government to lead this effort.
    From my point of view we should first establish that, where possible, the cost causer should be cost payer. Second, there should be no new taxes until every position and program in state government gets a hard look to see if that position or program is necessary.
    There is also billions of unspent capitol budget dollars from previous years. Each line item that has not been completed or started should be scrutinized.

  11. Scott Ogan

    It is time to dust off the study by legislative researchers in LAA, that I started and Sen McGuire added to, which identified new state programs created since oil revenues flowed into the State treasury. There are many ways to approach this study, but at least there is a document which gives a base line ID of all new programs sense the big money started flowing.

    I remember when Mike Dugan, not known to be one of the Legislature’s most conservative members, refused to vote for the budget his last session, because it was “unsustainable.” That was three years ago?

    The history of Alaska is full of examples of resource booms gone bust. Lets keep our eye on the ball and not abandon the goal of more oil down the pipeline, and not get too intoxicated by chasing the gas line pipe dream. Remember, its all about the oil.

    I wish the new governor and the legislature the best in tackling this tough session. There are a lot of conflicting alliances made by both which will make the job a tough one. Its time to pay the fiddler.

    I will not say anything that I have to hide behind a alias;-) Penned as a private citizen which reflect my personal views.

    Scott Ogan

  12. Brandon

    Bottom line is that everyone needs to throw in. Let’s get started. Does the legislature have to look at their own budget? Of course they do. I think that there is considerable frustration with the new administration and their seeming lack of attention to this situation. Walker should be chided.

  13. Ketchikan Korner

    Restricting Rep. C Millett’s travel will be a good start to saving big bucks. This woman is a waste of time.

  14. Tranor

    The Walker administration has faced the fisc crisis with complete shock, confusion and no action. It is quickly becoming the administration of the inept and incompetent.
    The legislative letter hit key points and I applaud it. The legislature should also implement travel restrictions on its members. Leadership by example is a good way to start.

  15. John Q. Public

    I’m sure I missed it despite scouring the press release and the letter, but I can’t seem to find anything that demonstrates that the legislature intends to lead by example with its own budget- which has increased by over $11,000,000, or 17%, since FY 2010

    No mention that the legislature intends to rolls back the number of staff to a level that is sustainable, nor curtail their own travel. Apparently what the “leaders” claim is good for the goose is anathema to the gander.

    I’m sure that the recent trip to DC by the female half of the Love Caucus to rub noses with Joe Biden might be considered by some to be essential or emergency in nature, and of course other junkets by legislators and their staff- including repeated trips to foreign countries are equally critical to the future of Alaska. Perhaps if the legislators and their staff had to pay 50% for all travel outside of Alaska there might be a significant reduction.

    And regarding capital projects on which there has been little progress or which otherwise should not move forward due to the phased nature or cost of the project, perhaps the Senator from Eagle River can tell us if that applies to the proposed $574,000,000-$1,000,000,000 “road” to Kensington and beyond.

  16. Idiot Detector

    This comment has been fully vetted based on facts. The commenter, who foes by Forecaster, is without a doubt the most ill-informed idiot the comments on this site. From reading this blog, others have made the same assertion.
    Somehow this commenter believes we are losing $$ with SB 21. I’m sorry but the facts speak to the contrary. SB 31 is giving us more $$ than we would have gotten under ACES. Also, the ACES tax credits, if still in law, would be sucking the cash coming in dry. So Forecast, either quit commenting and showing us how incredibly stupid you are or take the time to learn. It seems that the il-informed are Walker supporters. Says a lot.

  17. Forecast

    This is hysterical. These legislators are the ones who passed the budget. These are the idiots that doubled state spending over the last ten years. These are the clowns that passed SB-21 and as a direct result Alaska is getting a fraction of the revenue of the value of the oil we own- greatly contributing to our deficits.

    These are the clowns that are upgrading the LIO in Anchorage- a project that will increase the rent about 600%. (Gotta have hardwood stalls in the bathroom, and glass elevators!)

    These are the clowns that continue to fly on all sorts of junkets- even legislators that will never again cast a vote (those voted out, but still retain office until January 20, 2015).

    Chenault should release the travel expenses of all his House members over the last 12 months. What are you afraid of Mike? Come on, put the big boy pants on and show us how much money you’ve wasted.

    Maybe Chenault will also reveal how much money was wasted on the recent, secret meeting (retreat) that was organized by the charter members of the Corrupt Bastards Club.

    The biggest joke in Alaska: the “leadership” of the House and Senate. Total Fing joke.

  18. Jerry S.

    The Legislature is 100% correct. This is exactly what is needed. Unfortunately, Walker and Mallott are offering no leadership at all. My only criticism associated with this letter is that the legislature should freeze non-essential travel too. Also, as I walk around the Capitol, I see extensive and unnecessary renovations of legislatice offices.

  19. Lynn Willis

    These are senior legislators who were there to see creation of the largest state budgets in history. While they might not have been in senior position then, they had to have heard the warnings then that this practice was dangerous and unsustainable yet they all remained silent apparently to not jeopardize membership in the majority caucus .
    Please understand that this letter comes from the very people and a previous Governor who failed to line item veto one dime from the last unsustainable budget. They could be meeting this weekend to discuss spending (by phone conference to save money) so don’t fall for that “hit the ground running” and we “only have 90 days” baloney.
    This is from the Alaska Legislature; home of the “mega-solution”. They cannot grasp that this solution is going to take discipline, courage, and will consist of myriad incremental steps. What they want is another “mega-solution” and will “poo-poo” any suggestions that aren’t worth at least a half-billion dollars. Already we have seen some of them fly (and fly again in this letter) the “reapportionment” flag as if spending money on “B” is any less expensive than spending it on “A”. Next watch for a “we want your input” campaign and perhaps the idea to have us vote for state bonds to allow them to blame us as the cause for state spending. The feeding trough has been getting smaller for some time yet we haven’t slaughtered any of the less quality hogs and won’t especially if it is a “pet hog”.
    AK Mom points out that a place to start is legislative travel. I do wonder if they drafted this letter on their way back from the “Energy Conference” in Alabama ( which also featured the attendance of a legislator who lost the last election and won’t be with them in January), or their secretive retreat at the Alyeska Hotel, or perhaps after rubbing noses with Vice President Biden at some other junket, the stated purpose of which I cannot remember (yet I am certain was very critical).
    Want to see what really counts to them? Look for the list of pre-filed bills which will be published soon.

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