Senate Finance budget cut falls short of $300 million goal

Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, proposed a series of budget amendments during a Senate Finance Committee meeting on Monday. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

The Senate will debate a state government budget for the coming year that is $262 million less than the current budget.

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The Senate Finance Committee’s proposed cut is much deeper than the $32 million cut the House passed.

But it falls short of the $300 million that the Senate majority caucus announced as a reduction goal this winter.

Wasilla Republican Sen. Mike Dunleavy offered a series of cuts as budget amendments on Monday. They were defeated.

“The purpose in this is, as a caucus the Senate majority has agreed to reduce the budget by 300 million real dollars,” Dunleavy said. “This is an attempt to get us as close as possible to that reduction.”

One of Dunleavy’s amendments would have reduced the budget by another $103 million, without allocating where the cuts would be made. Gov. Bill Walker’s administration would have been tasked with making the cuts. Dunleavy was the only Finance Committee member to vote for the amendment.

Senate Finance Co-chairman Bethel Democrat Lyman Hoffman said the governor needs clear ideas about where reductions should be made.

“It’s been said, and the governor, governor’s office has said it, unallocated reductions are very difficult to manage,” Hoffman said.

The biggest Senate cuts are to transportation, education and health and social services. The University of Alaska would be cut $22 million. University President Jim Johnsen said the cut would be “devastating.”

The full Senate was scheduled to begin debating amendments to the budget Wednesday, but delayed the discussion to possibly Thursday.