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Alaska House committee advances operating budget

February 28, 2020 GMT

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The House Finance Committee advanced its version of a state operating budget Friday, including extra money for state ferries and honoring an agreement reached by the governor and university system last year.

It doesn’t address the size of check residents should receive from the state’s oil-wealth fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund. Legislative leaders expect that to be taken up later.

The proposed budget, which must be voted on by the House and taken up by the Senate, includes additional funds for the beleaguered ferry system that Republican Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak has said is intended to provide “basic, minimal service” to coastal communities. Cuts to the system budget have been compounded by maintenance and other issues, leaving some communities with lapses in service.

The measure sticks with a $25-million University of Alaska system cut. Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the Board of Regents chair last year agreed to a $70 million cut over three years, roughly half what Dunleavy initially proposed cutting in one year.

Some committee members thought a $25-million cut was too much. Others saw an opportunity in sticking with the compact to perhaps contribute to the university’s deferred maintenance or debt service needs in a separate spending bill.