The House passed its version of the FY21 Operating Budget, the result of a fast-paced and negotiated process. AML appreciates the inclusion of many items that are important to local governments, including:
- Increased funding for the Alaska Marine Highway System
- Increased funding for the Village Public Safety Officer program
- Support for Code Blue and Public Broadcasting
However, we’re concerned about an approach to the FY21 budget that failed to address a $10 million reduction to Community Assistance, and the continuation of the 50% reduction to school bond debt reimbursement. Accepting these as “status quo” reflects a philosophy that accepts as permissible balancing the State’s budget by passing costs to local governments, and ultimately local taxpayers. Given the lack of amendments both within House Finance and on the House floor, local governments in Alaska are faced with the silent acquiescence of the House to reductions to the State budget that negatively impact local governments.
This flies in the face of a Constitutional obligation to “maximize local self-government.” In fact, cost-shifting reduces the ability of local governments to respond to other needs of residents. Taking on additional responsibilities for school bond debt means that deferred maintenance is put off. For some communities, reductions to Community Assistance mean that essential programs may be eliminated.
We’re a long way from a final budget, and we encourage the Senate to address these deficiencies. We hope the Senate will take the time to ask for municipal input, and impact, so that the final product is responsive to needs not just of the State but of its political subdivisions.