Now in minority, House Republicans fail to cut budget

Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, during a discussion in the House Finance Committee in February. He wants further budget cuts. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

The Republican House caucus is pushing to cut the state government budget. But they no longer hold the majority. Instead of shrinking, the House version of the budget has actually grown.

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The House Finance Committee has been working through $150 million in proposed cuts by minority-caucus Republicans. So far, the mostly Democratic majority has turned down the reductions.

Anchorage Republican Rep. Lance Pruitt expressed concern Thursday that the majority isn’t making any cuts.

“At some point in time not every single thing in this budget can be a sacred cow we can’t touch,” Pruitt said.

The committee did vote to add to the budget. They include adding $2.1 million to the Alaska Marine Highway to increase service.

Overall, House Finance subcommittees and the full Finance Committee have added more than $200 million to Gov. Bill Walker’s proposed budget of $4.2 billion. Most of the change was to increase Permanent Fund dividends, by $98 million and to “inflation proof” the Permanent Fund, by $120 million.

North Pole Republican Rep. Tammie Wilson said she’s disappointed there hasn’t been more discussion on the more than 200 cuts she proposed.

“We have to look inside each and every budget to see where we can decrease the budget,” Wilson said.

But Anchorage Democratic Rep. Les Gara said many of the cuts would hurt the most vulnerable residents.

“You know, to toss people to the side just because they don’t have money or because they have difficulty, that’s not what I would do as a legislator,” Gara said.

The Senate Finance subcommittees are finishing their work over the next week. The Senate majority is looking to make up to $300 million in cuts.

The gap between state spending and oil royalties, taxes and fees is $2.7 billion.