The Senate has finished work on its operating budget for next year and there’s a lot of agreement with it. The measure passed unanimously in a floor vote this afternoon. In presenting the bill, Finance Co-Chair Lyman Hoffman (D-Bethel) said the plan spends a total of nearly $9.5 billion more than $6 billion of that from state revenue.
Hoffman also pointed out the money that is NOT included in the budget – an additional $2-Billion in savings in the statutory reserve account.
He credited the bi-partisan approach to government that the Senate began five and a half years ago. He said at that time, the total state savings was only $8.1-Billion.
Today, at the end of this fiscal year, that amount will swell from $8.1-Billion in undesignated savings, to $21-Billion, 159-million. A growth of close to thirteen Billion dollars.
The Senate Republican Minority had only tried to make one change to the plan – an unsuccessful attempt to increase the amount of money available for the Performance Scholarship program. North Pole Republican John Coghill explained he wanted to fully fund the program.
I think we need to fully fund that. I think the students have worked. We don’t need to discredit that work at all. We have set the bar quite a bit higher, and the graduation rates in Alaska I think have been impacted by this. So this $4.9-million addition would keep that bar high, would keep the students to the highest possible level we could get them.
Hoffman said the money Coghill wants to see is in a separate bill focusing on scholarships. The minority cautioned against relying on any other bill becoming law this year. However, that was not reason to oppose the entire budget.
It passed with all twenty senators in support of it. It next returns to the House. If there is no agreement, differences in the two versions will be resolved in a conference committee.