JUNEAU - The House Finance Committee on Monday began consideration of a nearly $9.7 billion state operating budget with public hearings scheduled for today and Wednesday.
Committee co-Chairman Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, said the spending plan was the product of weeks of work by budget subcommittees refining the governor's original plan.
"The administration brought forward what was truly a fairly frugal presentation but with time and effort we have been able to spearhead some changes," Hawker said.
The spending plan includes about $6.7 billion for state agencies including K-12 education. That's about $31 million less than last year's spending and about $50 million less than the governor's proposed budget for this year.
The budget will go through more changes in committee before it goes to the House Floor for a vote by the second week of March, Hawker said. It then goes to the Senate.
The state capital budget, which includes roads and other construction projects around the state, will be worked on first in the Senate before it is sent over to the House.
The state is facing a $1.3 billion dollar deficit this year and next based on the Department of Revenue's revenue forecast. Revenue officials are predicting oil prices will average about $58 over the coming year.
That means lawmakers will have to dip into savings to balance the budget. The state currently has $6.6 billion in its constitutional budget reserve fund that it could tap into.