Conservative approach to state budget warranted

The Legislature’s House Finance Committee this week proposed a $9.1 billion state budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The measure is $3 billion less than what Gov. Sean Parnell had proposed, and with cuts large and small, indicates that legislators are taking the projected drop in state revenue seriously.

The Finance Committee’s budget does not include the $3 billion Parnell had proposed shifting from savings to address the unfunded liability in the state’s retirement systems, an item lawmakers have not addressed.

It also includes cuts of about $41 million in unrestricted general funds from Parnell’s proposed budget. According to the Associated Press, subcommittees were asked to find ways to make cuts without harming critical services.

While it’s still early in the budget process and things can and often do change before a bill gets to the governor’s desk, this type of critical look at state spending seems long overdue. For example, the committee trimmed $1 million for operating souvenir shops on state ferries. The shops aren’t making any money, and if you’re running a tight ship, so to speak, that would seem an obvious cut.

Other cuts might not be as obvious or as easy to make. There’s been a push to boost the Village Public Safety Officer program, but the committee reasoned that the Department of Public Safety needed to fill open positions before funding for additional officers is necessary.

Down the road, lawmakers will need to look at restoring some of the funding being trimmed in the current budget process. The governor’s effort to address the retirement system’s unfunded liability, for example, has merit, as does enhancing public safety.

But with a revenue shortfall looming, a conservative approach to state spending is prudent.

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