Posted: Monday, December 04, 2000

Group wants state long-range fiscal plan

JUNEAU - Pam La Bolle is worried about a "Scarlett O'Hara" legislative session.

When it comes to a structural deficit in the state budget, La Bolle, president of the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, doesn't want the Legislature to conclude that "tomorrow is another day" just because of high oil prices now.

In its recent legislative tie-in, chamber members chose a long-range fiscal plan as the highest priority for the 2001 session, even though a projected deficit has been wiped out by unexpected oil revenue.

But so far, the Republican leadership in the Legislature is saying it won't tap Permanent Fund earnings or raise new revenue to avoid future deficits that could deplete the Constitutional Budget Reserve.

La Bolle said now is the time to implement spending restraint to avert deficits. "You can ease into a budget that is sustainable without having to make cuts," she said. "You just control the growth of programs."

The chamber also is calling for a biennial state budget. Other chamber priorities include development of a natural gas pipeline, and oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

McConnell: State needs more funds

JUNEAU - The Legislature needs to find an additional $80.6 million to maintain existing programs through the next fiscal year, said Annalee McConnell, director of the Office of Management and Budget for Gov. Tony Knowles.

Debt payments that are coming due, caseload increases, contract and lease adjustments, catastrophic events and the phase-out of temporary funding sources require the increase, McConnell said in a news teleconference from Anchorage this morning.

Knowles is scheduled to announce his overall funding request for Fiscal Year 2002 on Dec. 15. McConnell said today's announcement was intended to give attention to less compelling fiscal issues that sometimes get lost when the state budget is being proposed.

The state will need to pay $28.5 million on past bond issues in the next fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2001, to June 30, 2002. Another $6.8 million is needed to "annualize" programs that were begun during the current fiscal year, such as operations of the new Anchorage jail and the Ketchikan juvenile detention center.

Later this week, the Department of Revenue will announce only the second state budget surplus in recent years, amounting to about $100 million, McConnell said. But the oil prices that created the surplus probably won't hold at the current level through June 30, 2002, requiring a drawdown of "several hundred million dollars" from the Constitutional Budget Reserve, she said.

Permanent fund loses money in November

ANCHORAGE - The Alaska Permanent Fund's portfolio of U.S. stocks fell in value by $900 million during November, ending the month at some $8.8 billion.

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. said November was a rough month, with the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Index falling 5.5 percent and the more tech-heavy Nasdaq composite falling 21 percent.

Overall, with gains in its bond and real estate holdings partly offsetting stock losses, the $26 billion Permanent Fund ended November around $817 million smaller than when it began the month.

Bristol Bay crab income down

UNALASKA - Processors around the Aleutians East Borough are reporting a dramatic dip in revenues from the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery. According to borough figures, the harvest value fell to $12.7 million. That compares with $26 million a year ago.

Borough tax revenues from the fishery fell from more than $530,000 to $250,000. The borough uses a 2 percent fish tax to pay for running schools, government services and capital improvements.

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