The Operating Budget Passes the House
On Monday, April 17th the House passed HB 39, APPROP: OPERATING BUDGET/LOANS/FUND; SUPP, the Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2024, by a vote of 23 to 17. As you probably remember, it was a while ago since I last wrote about the amendment process on the budget. After we finished the amendments the House majority held off on taking a vote on the budget. We took the final vote last Monday and the bill is now being considered by the Senate.
The budget supports many critical agencies and services, but I was concerned with the sustainability of the budget and the services that were not funded, and I ultimately voted against passing the budget. I did not feel comfortable supporting a budget with a nearly $600 million deficit. Furthermore, while the bill includes $175 million in additional education funding, it is just for fiscal year 2024. I think we need a permanent increase to Base Student Allocation to support education not just this year, but into the future. Finally, as I wrote the week before last, the House Coalition tried to the balance the budget and add funding to programs for some of the most vulnerable Alaskans through the amendment process. Unfortunately, these amendments were defeated by the House majority, and this is another reason I did not feel like I could support the budget.
Despite voting against the budget on the House Floor, I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and in both bodies, to pass a budget before the end of the legislative session. I know my friends and neighbors sent me to Juneau to get a budget passed and I remain committed to doing this. The Senate is currently considering the operating budget. Inevitably the House will not agree to concur with the changes the Senate makes to the budget and the operating budget will go to conference committee. In conference committee the differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget will be worked out. I am optimistic that we will ultimately put together a budget that works for Alaska, and includes an increase to the Base Student Allocation and at least an average sized PFD.