JUNEAU (AP) -- Gov. Frank Murkowski needs more time to prepare a budget for the June 30 start of fiscal year 2004.
In a letter to legislative leaders, Murkowski said his administration needs more time to complete audits of all state departments before submitting a spending plan.
State law requires the governor to submit a budget to the Legislature by Dec. 15. Murkowski was elected governor in November and took office Dec. 2. He said state law does not adequately provide a new governor taking office enough time to prepare a responsible budget.
To comply with the law, Murkowski on Friday submitted the same spending plan approved by the Legislature last session.
Murkowski said the plan ''is the same starting point for budget discussions that the Legislature has used in recent years.''
This year's budget negotiations are expected to be less contentious than those under former Democrat Gov. Tony Knowles. Both Murkowski and the legislative majority are Republicans.
Murkowski said he looks forward to working with legislative leaders to ''responsibly provide for essential state services and to be responsive to concerns about Alaska's long-term fiscal future.''
The governor has until Jan. 24 to put the budget in the form of legislation that lawmakers can act upon. The governor also has 45 days after the session begins to make any changes in his proposed budget.
Murkowski said in a statement that it was unclear whether his administration would have a spending plan in place by Jan. 24.
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