Rep. Wilson seeks deeper budget cuts, to no avail

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R- North Pole, reads through a series of amendments to the state’s budget during the House Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday in Juneau. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

Conflicts over the state budget are rising as the spending plan advances through the House Finance Committee.

Committee member Tammie Wilson introduced more than 200 of 330 amendments to the budget, including a group of separate 38 cuts to overtime and other types of work that pay state employees additional money.

The North Pole Republican wanted to debate each amendment individually. But the committee combined most of her amendments into two groups, then voted down both. Wilson objected.

“Well, it doesn’t allow the discussion: the discussion we owe Alaskans,” Wilson said. “Are we really looking at each line and seeing where we can cut, just as they would in their own business or in their own home? And by adding it all together makes it to where somebody can say, ‘well, I didn’t like one or two of them.’”

As a form of protest, Wilson read from her amendments for nearly an hour.

It’s particularly important to look to cut the budget at a time when the House is weighing whether to introduce an income tax, Wilson said.

Anchorage Democratic Rep. Les Gara argued against cutting much more than the state has already eliminated over the past four fiscal years.

“I get the urge to cut the budget even more,” Gara said. “It’s been cut by over $3.3 billion since FY ’13. But at some point, you just can’t ask for blood from a stone. And you can’t make fewer people, who are serving Alaskans, do more by further cutting their ability to do work.”

The committee voted to reverse a vote it took last week, to cut school debt reimbursements by nearly $50 million. Instead, it would fund the full amount. It also voted down Wilson’s proposal to cut the Base Student Allocation the state pays schools by 5 percent.

The committee is scheduled to discuss the budget more Wednesday and Thursday.