Bill for extra expenses comes in under budget

Governor's budget director worried state programs are not getting enough funds

Posted: Tuesday, February 08, 2000

As the House worked on setting limits on how much it wants to spend in the next fiscal year, Gov. Tony Knowles submitted the bill for unexpected expenses and underfunded programs.

Knowles' supplemental budget for the current budget year - which ends June 30 - comes in just under the $16.5 million allowed in the spending plan approved by the Legislature last year, said Annalee McConnell, Knowles' budget director.

Much of the supplemental budget is made up of costs the administration had warned would be higher than the Legislature allowed for, McConnell said.

``We are concerned that the Legislature is going back to patterns of the past, where programs were underfunded to a significant degree,'' she said.

She pointed, as examples, to extra money needed for Medicaid, $6.3 million; Alaska's longevity bonus program, $4.5 million; and foster care, $3.2 million. Another $2.1 million more was needed to cover the cost of busing kids to school.

Smaller pieces - totaling $2 million - of the supplemental budget request will go for state leasing, medical assistance and the Office of Public Advocacy. Fire suppression, high fuel costs for state ferries and overcrowded juvenile detention centers added up to another $6.4 million, with another $2.4 million needed to cover court judgments against Alaska.

While some programs didn't have enough money in their budgets, others cost less than expected.

An unexpected drop in enrollment and more local and federal money saved the state $11.8 million in education costs. The price of dealing with computer problems some people feared would come with the year 2000 was $3 million under budget. About $15 million was budgeted for Y2K-related expenses.

Republican budget writers were not available for comment on the supplemental request this morning.

Also, House Finance Committee co-chairmen weren't available to comment on budget allocations released late Monday. The allocations, known as budget caps, represent how much the House GOP majority is willing to spend on the state's agencies.

Subcommittees will work on figuring out which specific programs get funded at what level, and report back to the House Finance Committee.

Republican leaders have said they are looking to cut $30 million of general fund spending during the coming year.

The allocations, presented on a one-page spread sheet, show about $16 million worth of planned cuts from the current year's spending. Not included are the numbers for two municipal aid programs, which were cut $16 million down to nearly $32 million in last year's budget.

McConnell said her initial take on the allocations was that some programs are in for a fiscal ordeal this session. Other programs that Knowles wanted to spend more money on for 2001, she said, don't figure into the numbers.

``They're obviously very severe,'' she said. ``Obviously, there are some very significant cuts in areas where it will mean real substantial program changes.''

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