Alaska Governor Bill Walker asked the Assembly for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough for help tonight in resolving the State fiscal disaster, as he called it. The Borough's share of the pain, so far, is $5.7 million in cuts to State reimbursement of Mat-Su Borough school bonds and another $2.8 million in cuts for the Mat-Su School District. Reacting quickly, Borough Manager John Moosey recently cut $3.6 million from his already-adopted budget and needs to find another $1.9 million. The Assembly asked Moosey to return on Aug. 2 with proposals.
Moosey told the Assembly most cuts came from the capital projects budget, some $3.09 million, by delaying construction projects for now. On operations, Borough employees will not receive a cost of living increase. A hiring freeze is in place. No overtime is authorized except in emergency situations. A hold is on travel and training. He spoke against layoffs, saying it would cost.
Moosey said he does not want to stick it to the taxpayer and reminded the audience that the tax rate has not been going up. "Every year if you look back on the last seven years, we have not increased the mill rate for citizens. This $5.7 M is very tough to deal with," Moosey said.
The Mat-Su Borough has long been the fastest growing community in Alaska. The Mat-Su School District grew 6 percent in the last five years, while most large districts shrank. A third of all new housing built in the state was built in the Mat-Su in 2014, according to Neal Fried, State economist.
Listen to the entire audio of Manager John Moosey posted on the right.
Alaska Governor Bill Walker said he hadn't been before the Mat-Su Assembly since last summer's Sockeye Fire disaster. He called the State's budget shortfall a disaster. Here's some excerpts from the Governor's quotes. You can hear his entire talk and Assembly remarks and questions in the audio posted at the right.
"I've only known David to talk about numbers. I've never seen any advocacy from David Teal. (Legislative Fiscal Analyst)...And he said, 'Alaska is in the midst of the gravest fiscal crisis in State history.' I agree with him. I absolutely agree with him. We need to act accordingly. ... so on the cuts 2013 to 2017, spending has been reduced by 40 percent, $3.5 billion has been reduced. Is there room to do more, of course there is." —Gov. Bill Walker
"There's nothing on the horizon that's all of a sudden going to turn this situation around. We would need to have about 1.8 million barrels of oil in a pipeline that has 500,000 barrels today. We're going to need to have oil at $120 a barrel, which is about $45 a barrel today. I just can't make decisions assuming that is going to happen. That is why I have done what I have done. That's why I've put together a fiscal plan." Walker said.
"It takes about five miles to turn an oil tanker. I want to see how long it takes to turn the state. Because we're trying to turn the state in a little bit different direction because of our fiscal situation. That (Senate vote on Permanent Fund Protection Act) was the beginning of that turn. Unfortunately that did not carry through with the House so that didn't pass."
"In 2013, the capital budget was $2 billion. That must've been a really enjoyable time to be governor of Alaska. This year, $96 million, just enough for the federal match. 2013 operating budget was $6 billion, this year it's $4.3 billion. In 2013 the unrestricted general fund revenue was $7 billion, this year it's $1.2 billion. In 2013 the dividend check was $900, this year it's $1,000."
On Port MacKenzie Rail, a 32-mile rail link from Houston to Port MacKenzie, the Governor said he believes government should invest in infrastructure. He singled out Port MacKenzie as "tremendous."
"I'm a big believer in infrastructure. ... I think that's the role of government is to create the infrastructure. ... If we sat back and waited for Jim (Hank) Jansen, founder of Lynden, to build the highway system in Alaska, we wouldn't have a highway system in Alaska. ... I think that port is a tremendous, tremendous opportunity but it needs that rail spur. Every time I talk about an infrastructure project someone will say what about this one that failed or that one that failed. And that's just not ... there's a great hockey player who said he missed every shot he didn't take. So sometimes you have to take the shot. So I'm with you on the rail spur." —Gov. Bill Walker
Photos by Patty Sullivan/Mat-Su Borough.