Alaska House Representative of the 36th District and Kodiak native Alan Austerman spoke in downtown Kodiak Saturday to a group of about 18 people, concerning the 2014 fiscal year state operational and capital budgets.
Austerman reported an anticipated $2 billion cut in the budgets, mostly due to state oil revenue shortfalls, which could affect Kodiak businesses next year.
Austerman reported a direct $1.5 million cut to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which was recommended by the department themselves, will be at the forefront of concern for a fishing oriented community like Kodiak.
Kodiak resident Virginia Adams attended the meeting and said the potential cuts should be a major concern for the Alaskan fishing community at large and hopes the legislature will consider that when budget talks for fiscal year 2015 begin.
“The fish and game budget is very important to us,” Adams said. “It will make it pretty hard to manage fish with no money. Something is going to have to get done.”
Austerman said it will not affect Kodiak in any major way at this point in time, but added that the 2015 fiscal year budget could yield another $1 billion cut and the continuance of declining oil revenues are mainly the cause.
Austerman said although the figures are concerning, the budget cuts are going completely across the board. Medicaid, Medicare and other health and social services could be put on the block and all businesses in the state may eventually feel the sting. However, a $15 billion buffering zone in savings may help soften potential blows in the coming year.
“Every budget is going to be trimmed this year,” Austerman said. “There’s just no way around it. We won’t see a big push this year but by next year, when we’re in the same boat, if we come back again with another $2 billion worth in shortfalls, then at some point in time we’re going to start lobbying off programs and try to get it down to a manageable budget, based on our revenue.”
Austerman said he could not speculate on what direct programs may be affected next year, but he hopes to see solutions come to light that can avoid any potential hardships to Alaskan citizens, particularly Kodiak.
“We haven’t cut any real major programs but we are trying to make the state departments as lean and mean as they can get, without having to take programs,” Austerman said. “But by next year, I really anticipate that they are going to be looking at programs cuts, but what they will be is hard to say at this time. They are a year away.”
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