State House passes $69 million supplemental budget

Posted: Sunday, March 09, 2003

A $69 million supplemental spending bill to cover the costs of firefighting, natural disasters and other unanticipated expenses that sprang up this year was approved by the state House on Friday.

If approved by the Senate, the House bill would drive up state general fund spending for the current fiscal year's budget to $2.4 billion. The fiscal year budget ends on June 30 and isn't related to the fiscal 2004 budget introduced this week by Gov. Frank Murkowski.

The supplemental spending bill includes $19 million for fire suppression and $11.6 million to help with impacts of earthquakes, flooding and other disasters. It also includes $23.2 million to cover cuts in federal Medicaid funds.

The House also approved money for programs underfunded by the Legislature during budget negotiations last spring, such as $2 million for adult public assistance.

Rep. Mary Kapsner, a Bethel Democrat, tried to amend the spending bill to add $94,600 for the Bethel and Kenai youth jails, but her amendment failed. Rep. Eric Croft, an Anchorage Democrat, also tried unsuccessfully to add $1.9 million for guardians for abused and neglected children and for assistance to families who adopt disabled children.

House Finance Co-Chairman John Harris, a Valdez Republican, said needs not covered by House Bill 100 may be handled later this spring in another budget bill.

The supplemental bill included $2.5 million to keep open highway maintenance stations that former Gov. Tony Knowles closed last year due to legislative budget cuts.

Croft tried unsuccessfully to take out $3.9 million for the Departments of Law, Public Safety and Transportation, saying the administration should not have ignored the Legislature's cuts in those areas last year.

The supplemental spending bill passed the House 27-7. Democrats Ethan Berkowitz of Anchorage; David Guttenberg of Fairbanks; Les Gara of Anchorage; Beth Kerttula of Juneau; Albert Kookesh of Angoon; Croft and Kapsner voted against it.

The bill still has to be approved by the Senate.

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