Bill would force governor to choose priorities

Posted: Thursday, February 07, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- State departments would have to rank their programs in order of importance under a bill that passed the House on Wednesday.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, said the priority list would help the Legislature make decisions in times of tight funding. A similar system worked well in the municipality of Anchorage when Gov. Tony Knowles was mayor there, Dyson said.

''It forces us to say, 'Wait a minute, you mean keeping the museum open on Saturday is just as important as having a crimes against children investigator in Bethel?''' he said.

Rep. Gretchen Guess, D-Anchorage, argued against the bill, saying it would force an administration to choose among equally important programs, such as food stamps or child protection services.

She said it's the Legislature's responsibility to set budget priorities.

But supporters of the bill said legislators are only in Juneau four months of the year, and the full-time employees in the administration know better than they what state services need funding the most.

''This is to respect the people who are doing the work, get their input and give us another tool to hopefully make more rational decisions,'' Dyson said.

The requirement wouldn't take effect until next year when a new governor takes office.

The bill passed the House 29-4, with Reps. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau; Mary Kapsner, D-Bethel; Bill Hudson, R-Juneau; and Guess voting no. It now goes to the Senate.

The measure is House Bill 349.

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