Gov. Knowles signs off on $7.4 billion in budget bills

Posted: Monday, July 02, 2001

Starting Sunday, Alaska began spending more money on education, law enforcement, public health and various other programs and projects.

Gov. Tony Knowles on Saturday signed into law almost $7.4 billion worth of budget bills for the 2002 fiscal year, which began Sunday. The general fund portion of the budget is $2.4 billion, about $119 million more than in the 2001 fiscal year.

The budget bills include $9 million to help renovate Juneau-Douglas High School and $2.5 million toward a new classroom wing at the University of Alaska Southeast's Egan Library. They also include about $547,000 a year in extra school funds for Juneau.

Knowles, who sought greater increases in spending than the Legislature provided, did not use his line-item veto power on any items.

"We worked long and hard on that budget and we had a lot of good negotiation," Knowles said Saturday.

House Finance Committee Co-Chairman Eldon Mulder, an Anchorage Republican, has said the budget reflects the public's priorities for increases, while holding the line on most programs.

The spending plan includes about $18 million more for the basic school funding program, about $6.2 million more for school grants and about $14.3 million more for the University of Alaska, according to the administration.

The budget will also pay for eight new state troopers, three more village public safety officers, four new constables and a raise and better benefits for VPSOs. It provides part of the administration's request for extra money to fight a rise in tuberculosis and hepatitis C and part of a requested increase for Head Start.

Spending is also rising on Medicaid, subsidized adoptions and foster care.

Knowles left alone language in the operating budget saying state money is not to be spent on abortions for poor women, but indicated he may not follow that direction since a Superior Court judge has ruled it is unconstitutional for the state to deny funding for those abortions.

Planned Parenthood has asked the court to clarify that its order requiring the state to pay for abortions for poor women applies to the fiscal year 2002 budget.

"I will abide by the decision of the court as to whether these abortions must be paid for in FY 2002," Knowles said.

In previous years Knowles has vetoed some language in the budget, but the state Supreme Court ruled this year that a governor could not veto what's called intent language without also crossing out the funding attached to it.

Senate budget writers at one point tried to prevent state funding for abortions by inserting a provision in the budget that would nullify the entire Health and Social Services budget if funding went to abortions. But senators backed off that position in negotiations with House budget writers.

The nearly $7.4 billion total in the bills Knowles signed includes about $1.8 billion to inflation-proof the Alaska Permanent Fund the state's oil-wealth savings account - and pay permanent fund dividends.

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