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.”