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DOT&PF subcommittee calls for AMHS cuts

House Finance subcommittees wrap up work

Posted: March 4, 2013 - 1:01am

It met for just six and a half minutes Friday to approve its changes to Gov. Sean Parnell’s amended budget request for fiscal year 2014, but the House Finance subcommittee on the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities budget made cuts bringing its section of the proposed FY14 operating budget nearly in line with what was authorized for the department last year.

The DOT&PF subcommittee was the final House Finance subcommittee to close out its section of the operating budget, with two others meeting briefly Friday afternoon before it.

Parnell’s DOT&PF budget request called for a total of almost $635.7 million for the department, $290.4 million of which would come out of unrestricted general funds.

The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, pared the total request back by $9.9 million and dropped the department’s UGF take to $281.2 million — slightly below what was authorized for the current fiscal year.

The “management plan” for FY13 includes $621.5 million in total authorized funds, with about $281.8 million of that coming out of UGF.

The Alaska Marine Highway System was not spared.

The subcommittee’s budget proposal makes reductions to Parnell’s budget request of $2.1 million in UGF and $760,000 in designated general funds for AMHS operations. It also reduces funding for marine fuel by $1.4 million in UGF.

As a further cost-saving mechanism, the subcommittee narrative report also proposes intent language calling for the DOT&PF “to eliminate any future issuing of free annual passes to vehicles of departments, state employees, or retirees and their families on the Alaska Marine Highway System.”

The FY13 management plan for the AMHS totals $165.6 million, nearly all of which comes out of the general fund. The House Finance subcommittee budget proposal would cut that general fund authorization from $163.8 million to $160.7 million.

Under Parnell’s proposal, the AMHS general fund authorization would have a slight increase for FY14, going up to almost $165 million.

Among several other changes listed to Parnell’s budget request noted in the subcommittee narrative report, $2.58 million for state equipment fleet rate increases was denied, along with $469,600 for airport deicing chemicals.

In addition, the subcommittee targeted roads owned by municipalities but maintained by the state as an area for budget reductions, calling for $1.86 million to be trimmed from the operating budget in that area. Sixty thousand dollars of that reduction would come in Southeast Alaska.

After Neuman aide Rex Shattuck went through the narrative report, Neuman asked members if there was any discussion on it. No one spoke up.

The budget proposal and accompanying documents were moved out of the subcommittee on a motion offered by Rep. Bob Herron, D-Bethel.

“Thank you, members, for your attentiveness to the committee, and have a good evening,” said Neuman, after Herron’s motion carried without objection.

The House Finance subcommittees on the budget for the governor’s office and the Alaska State Legislature — among the smallest areas of the proposed FY14 operating budget — also held short closeout meetings Friday afternoon. Each took less than five minutes to advance their findings and changes.

The House Finance Committee will meet next week to adopt and hear public testimony on the subcommittees’ work.

The Senate Finance Committee has also delegated subcommittees to tackle portions of the proposed FY14 budget. Those subcommittees began meeting in mid-February, getting a later start on the budget than their House counterparts.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 586-1821 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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