Sarah Barracuda takes a bite out of Alaska budget

The Juneau Empire’s blog is reporting that Gov. Sarah Palin sent the Alaska legislature a supplemental budget request today that slashes general fund spending by $268.6 million and asks for authorization to withdraw some funds from the state’s savings accounts to bring the budget into balance by the end of the fiscal year. The governor has already put a state hiring freeze into effect.

According to a news release from the governor’s office, Palin told the Alaska lawmakers:

“With changing market conditions and declining oil prices, our state agencies have been working hard to find savings and still provide needed public services. Through savings targets we implemented at the beginning of the fiscal year and by efficiently managing our programs, we have been able to reduce the current budget and minimize supplemental funding. The more we reduce now, the less we will have to draw from savings at the end of the year.”

The governor said the cuts are necessary because the sharp drop in oil prices has reduced expected state revenues by $2 billion. She asked for the legislature’s cooperation to restrain spending and keep her state’s unemployment rate from rising as rapidly as it has in the sixteen states which have higher unemployment rates than Alaska:

“With the drop in oil prices, it will require reductions in the budget and access to reserves to keep Alaskans employed and the economy moving. I am committed to working with the legislature, as we have over the past two years, to make prudent budget decisions and continue to invest in infrastructure that will help develop our resources and our communities.”

Alaska’s unemployment rate rose three-tenths of a percent in December to 7.5 percent. At the same time, the national unemployment rate rose four-tenths of a percent to 7.2 percent.

Gov. Palin’s budget supplement and more state budget information can be found on the Alaska OMB website.

– JP