Gov. Tony Knowles is calling on the Legislature to make up a funding shortfall for the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Anchorage.
Knowles on Monday requested $500,000 for the games in his annual supplemental budget bills, asking lawmakers to "fast track" the extra dollars for the event, scheduled in March.
It was one of about 70 items in his supplemental spending plans, generally meant to cover unanticipated costs for government agencies and programs.
The head of the world games said organizers have raised nearly $16 million, but need the extra state dollars to help house and feed some 3,100 people who will arrive in Anchorage on or around Feb. 28.
"Without it we'd fall short on the housing and food allowance," said Special Olympics World Winter Games CEO Ben Stevens, adding he asked Knowles for the money in December.
Although the cochairman of the House Finance Committee questioned the total amount requested in the governor's supplemental budgets, he predicted lawmakers would take kindly to the idea of helping the Special Olympics, which will feature six Juneau athletes.
"They've done a great job at fund raising," said Rep. Eldon Mulder, an Anchorage Republican. "They're falling a little bit short, so this would help them. I think there's some sympathy in the Legislature for that."
Mulder was not so expansive toward other requests in the governor's supplemental budgets, which seek an extra $32.4 million in total general funds - double the amount Republicans allocated for unexpected costs this fiscal year.
Mulder challenged the governor's request for $2 million linked to a proposed project for a natural gas line from the North Slope. Knowles wants the money immediately so the state can get a jump start on field work and be prepared if any pipeline developers submit applications for permits to build the project.
"We could intensify the overall gas line effort considerably and avoid a full year's delay on the necessary field work," Knowles wrote in a letter to the speaker of the House.
But Mulder is not convinced the extra money is necessary.
"We support the gas line, we just want to make sure we're getting a good deal spending this money - we're not just paying for more bureaucrats," he said.
The supplemental bills would steer state general funds to a wide range of projects and programs, including $2.1 million to state agencies to cover the higher cost of fuel, $1.1 million to fully fund the Longevity Bonus program and $9.1 million to fund a 7 percent growth in Medicaid claims.
The supplemental is only one of several budget battles brewing this session. Republicans this week ignored the Democratic governor's proposed operating budget and released their own spending plan for next fiscal year. Mulder said Republicans will start with the budget lawmakers approved last May and strive to spend the same amount next fiscal year to operate state government - approximately $2.3 billion in general funds. However, Mulder added he anticipates some growth in the budget.
Kathy Dye can be reached at email@example.com.
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