This was an extremely hectic week on the fifth floor of the capital building. The House finance committee and budget subcommittees made many tough budget choices to live within our means. All House Finance budget subcommittees had finalized their Fiscal Year 2014 budget recommendations by close of business Friday, March 1. The House finance committee (HFIN) adopted a work draft of both the operating and mental health budget bills on March 4. HFIN took public testimony from 270 individuals over 10 hours on March 5 and 6. HFIN also received written testimony from nearly 380 people.

HFIN considered and adopted amendments to the budget bills on March 12 and moved the revised versions of the budgets out of HFIN on March 13. The budget bills were passed by the House on March 14, and now they will be transmitted to the Senate.

The operating budget totals $9.8 billion — of which $6.5 billion is from general funds. This general fund budget is $111.7 million less than what was submitted by the governor, and in fact, is less than the current Fiscal Year 2013 budget. Department budgets are $4.2 million less in general funds and the statewide functions (for example, debt service) are $11.5 million less in general funds than in FY2013. The budget also deleted $36 million in unrealizable general fund receipts for an overall general fund reduction of $51.7 million as compared to the current year’s general fund budget.

The Senate Finance Committee plans to be done with its version of the budget during the last week of March. After the full Senate takes action on the budget, a conference committee will be appointed in early April to work out the differences between the two versions of the budget. This year I anticipate being the chair of the conference committee.

Wrap-up

Last week I got a chance to visit my home in Kodiak and also held a constituent meeting that was well attended and sparked many interesting conversations. Much of the conversations centered around education funding and the fiscal climate of our state. There were also people in attendance that advocated for capital budget requests and fishing issues. I always appreciate engaging in conversations and feedback from constituents. You can always reach me during session by calling my Juneau office at 907-465-2487 or by email at Rep.Alan.Austerman@akleg.gov.

Alan Austerman represents House District 35, including Kodiak and Cordova, in the Alaska Legislature. To read the full version of his column, including his speech presenting the budget to the Legislature, visit www.alanausterman.com.

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