The past several days in Juneau have shown that not only is the House Finance Committee soft on budget cuts, they are in no mood to reduce Alaska’s bloated state operating to any degree whatsoever. In fact, they are actually increasing it.
Yes, you read that correctly.
The minority Republican members of the House Finance Committee are trying to reverse the tide of spending, however, even if their objections have fallen on deaf ears.
Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, started poring over Gov. Bill Walker’s unfunded budget on Dec. 15, when he first offered it for review.
Walker’s budget had a roughly $900 million hole that needed to be filled. His gasoline tax proposal would only raise $143 million. Wilson thought she could help by providing some cuts that would reduce the need for more taxes.
She went through it line by line, and came up with over $300 million in surgical cuts.
Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Chugiak-Wasilla did the same thing this winter. Tilton came up with additional efficiencies with the expertise of someone who is qualified enough to be a leading budget analyst. Tilton spent years as an aide to House Finance and is also a numbers-oriented owner of multiple Alaska businesses.
Between the two budget hawks, they provided House Finance Committee on Friday with 280 budget amendments totaling $421 million in agency spending reductions.
In the end, the bosses running House Finance bundled the amendments offered by Wilson and Tilton into two large packets of related amendments. Down they went into the ash heap, in a vote that occurred along caucus lines, although not before Rep. Wilson read 93 of them into the record.
There will be no budget reductions coming from the Democrat-led majority in the House. In fact, only budget increases, and possibly income taxes, gasoline taxes, education taxes and a host of other ideas to raid the pocketbooks of Alaska’s families.
THE RABBIT HOLE
Budget amendments were due to Legislative Finance Division by 5 pm on Saturday.
In spite of waiting throughout the weekend and Monday for word on any changes that would be required by the Legislative Finance analysts, the budget hawks got shot down on Tuesday, when the amendment package arrived with a surprising memo attached that was dismissive of their amendments.
The memo from Legislative Finance to the committee said that “actuals” from 2016 were not to be relied on and that was a red flag for any amendments that cut the budget.
All of the proposed budget cuts came from the minority Republicans on the committee.
In other words, in Finance Wonderland “actuals are not actuals.” Further, the memo stated, any reductions should have been vetted in the Finance subcommittees:
ACTUAL SUBCOMMITTEES DON’T EXIST: Yet under House Democrats’ reorganization of Finance, the budget subcommittee budget process has been rolled into the policy committees that are separate from the Finance Committee. And in those committees, Republicans were marginalized — both on policy and budget matters.
Budget hawk Republicans didn’t put the amendments into the “subcommittee” process because they were told they’d have to put them in later. Now, they’re told they should have offered the amendments earlier in the process.
Clearly, the House Majority is not in a budget cutting mood, in spite of overwhelming public support for slimming down state government.
And before all was said and done, Democrats had not only rejected every single cut, they actually increased the budget offered by Gov. Bill Walker by $3.8 million.