Cap on state spending proposed

Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- A freshman Republican is proposing to change the constitution to place a tight cap on state spending.

Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Eagle River, said his suggested constitutional amendment would limit state spending to no more than was spent two years earlier.

It would take a three-quarters vote of the Legislature to exceed the spending limit, and then lawmakers could exceed it by only 2 percent.

''It's a conservative approach to state government,'' Stoltze told the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

The spending limit would allow no automatic increases for inflation or population growth. Exceptions would be made in several areas, including spending federal funds, making bond payments, paying permanent fund dividends and paying for disasters.

Rep. Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage, asked what would happen if the national inflation rate exceeded 2 percent, meaning fewer troopers, teachers and so forth could be hired with the same amount of money.

''We may be caught in Alaska in a situation that's beyond our control,'' Gruenberg said. ''It might cause the whole budget to go out of whack.''

''I think the budget is going out of whack on its own,'' Stoltze replied.

A high inflation rate would force the Legislature to choose its priorities and cut other spending, Stoltze said.

If passed, the measure would continue to go before voters every six years to decide whether to keep it in place.

The proposed constitutional amendment has a long way to go before becoming law. A two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate is required to put the measure on the ballot, and then it would go before voters in November 2004.

The State Affairs Committee did not take action on House Joint Resolution 9 Tuesday.

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