Local officials and politicians are analyzing Gov. Bill Walker’s 2019 budget proposal, which was released last week. The budget is status quo compared to last year, but does call for some changes to oil and gas tax credits.
Homer Rep. Paul Seaton said he is happy Walker’s budget didn’t call for further cuts to some state services.
“I'm happy to see that there aren't cuts to D.O.T. and road maintenance or any trooper cuts,” he said. “We're trying to get services back up to where they were.”
Walker’s budget also called for flat education funding. Seaton said it’s a priority to make sure there are no cuts to schools. He also plans to put forward a bill that would allocate money to schools before the main budget passes to ensure that districts aren’t left guessing as they hire staff.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District was forced to put roughly 30 teaching positions on hold in 2017 as it waited for final budget numbers.
Seaton said, “I'm hoping that we get the early funding and the education budget so that we can prevent the teacher layoffs for all the school districts across the state.”
Walker did propose paying back oil and gas tax credits the state owes to oil companies faster. The state has been slow to pay off credits in recent years and plans to settle up with oil companies by 2025, but Walker wants the process to be finished by 2019.
Former borough Chief of Staff Larry Persily says that could help operations in Cook Inlet.
“You’ve had at least a couple of companies in Cook Inlet that have scaled back their drilling work because the state owes them tens of millions of dollars in past due tax credit refunds,” he said.
Blue Crest Energy announced its plans to halt its drilling operation north of Anchor Point this summer.
But these companies shouldn’t get too excited just yet. The governor’s proposal is only the first step in the budget process before Legislators start officially start negotiating the numbers when the return to Juneau in January.