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State budget a work in progress

Posted: December 21, 2013 - 3:47pm

Local officials have been sifting through Gov. Sean Parnell’s proposed budget since it was released Dec. 12, assessing its potential impact on the Kenai Peninsula.

One thing that’s been noted is that there is not much in the way of capital project spending included in the governor’s spending plan. While funding requests from the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the cities within may have been overlooked in this version, that doesn’t mean those projects won’t be included when the Legislature takes up the budget during the upcoming session. The legislative process is often compared to making sausage — it’s not always pretty, and what comes out rarely resembles what went in — and certainly our local legislators will be working to include funding for our high-priority projects in the final version.

That said, it is shaping up to be a more frugal capital budget than in recent years, when revenue from high oil prices boosted state coffers. The state’s revenue forecast predicts a decline in the coming year, and the governor has said he is budgeting accordingly. A project that might have gotten funding in a previous budget might not make the cut this time around. It will be up to legislators to sort out the wants from the needs as they allocate state dollars.

There are some items we’d like to make sure stay in the budget — most notably, $10 million for king salmon research. There is tremendous pressure on Alaska Department of Fish and Game personnel when it comes to managing our fisheries. While we’d prefer that legislators stay out of fisheries management, we would like lawmakers and the governor to ensure that fishery managers are able to make decisions based on the best data available, and good science requires good funding.

Legislators will certainly be inundated with many more funding requests when they get back to Juneau next month, and we hope our governing bodies do their due diligence when deciding which projects to fund in the coming year.

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