Story unfairly portrays budget increase for governor's office

Posted: Wednesday, March 10, 2004

A recent Associated Press article claimed that the governor's office is seeking a 21.9 percent increase in its budget "that administration officials say is necessary to pay for increased employer costs." Let me assure all Alaskans that neither the governor nor anyone in his office is so arrogant as to think that cuts are only for other departments of state government. All of us must share the pain of limited state funds.

In fact, the actual requested increase in the governor's office operations is $321,600, all of which is attributable to an increase in retirement system costs (PERS). The remainder of the 21.9 percent is attributable to a transfer of the International Trade Division to the governor's office from the Department of Commerce and Economic Development and to internal transfers of funds to different accounts within the governor's office.

Unlike other agencies of state government which conduct programs that can assist in absorbing costs such as the increase in PERS, the

governor's office does not administer such programs. We were thus limited to offsetting the retirement system increase by reducing the number of special assistants (the same number as in the previous administration) and their support staff, who are working with the departments to manage the policy changes directed by the governor.

Based on our analysis, it was clear that we could not perform our mission to help manage the policy changes with a reduced number of personnel. Hence the remark in the article attributable to me, saying "that a decrease in personnel would be penny wise and pound foolish."

The amount of funding for the governor's office must be analyzed in the same way as every other agency of state government we get no special pass when it comes to budget matters.

The article was unfair in portraying the governor's office as getting a special increase or believing that the budget cuts were only for others. The governor's office recognizes that it is subject to the same scrutiny and analysis as every other agency.

Jim Clark, Chief of Staff for Gov. Frank Murkowski

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