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Alaska Legislature

What’s in and what’s out of the budget approved by the Alaska House of Representatives

Members of the Alaska House of Representatives gather around Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, as they prepare to vote on the final version of the House's draft state budget Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (James Brooks / ADN)

JUNEAU — The Alaska House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a $4.5 billion state operating budget. Spending is about flat when compared to the budget approved last year because most of last year’s cuts are being reversed in a supplemental budget now under consideration.

Tuesday’s House vote covers the fiscal year that starts July 1 and will change as the Alaska Senate and Gov. Mike Dunleavy give their input.

All figures include only the share of the budget that’s paid for with tax and investment revenue (including the Permanent Fund’s annual transfer to the state treasury).

What’s out (or down)

The Permanent Fund dividend isn’t in the budget yet. Lawmakers have said that will be considered in separate legislation.

• The state’s capital budget, used to pay for construction and renovation projects statewide, isn’t included in this budget and will be passed separately. That is expected to cost between $100 million and $300 million.

• Spending on any new legislation the Legislature passes later isn’t included in this spending plan and would be added after the Legislature adjourns and the governor decides whether to veto that legislation.

• Funding for K-12 education is down 1.4%, or about $19 million, from last year’s budget.

• The University of Alaska will lose $25 million in state funding, an 8.3% cut. The House did not interrupt a long-term schedule of budget cuts arranged between the governor and the university system’s Board of Regents.

• The amount of money reserved to fight wildfires has been cut to $8.6 million. Last year, the state spent more than $124 million. Over the past five years, the average cost of a wildfire season is $35 million, according to the Legislative Finance Division.

• Money for school bond debt reimbursement and community assistance has been cut, meaning local boroughs and cities would have to either cut services or raise taxes to cover the gap.

What’s in (or up)

• The budget includes $55 million for tax-credit payments to oil and gas companies. Depending on the results of an ongoing Alaska Supreme Court case, that amount could rise to $166 million.

• The state Department of Public Safety gets $2.4 million more under the House plan, an increase of 1.4% that was not as large as the governor requested. Funding for additional troopers was not entirely approved, but the House added $1 million in additional funding for the Village Public Safety Officer program.

• Funding for the Department of Transportation is up $14.9 million, or 10.5%, in large part because operations funding for the Alaska Marine Highway System has been increased.

• The House plan calls for spending $27.6 million more on the state’s prison system, a 9.2% increase required because last year’s repeal of criminal justice reforms is keeping more Alaskans in prison.

Alaska’s court system would receive slightly more money; the state’s appeals court has requested additional help. The House did not approve a request to keep courthouses open on Friday afternoons.