Republican and Democratic Senate leaders agreed at the beginning of the session to a unique Senate Finance Subcommittee structure that gave Democratic Senators the power to choose which department subcommittee seats they wanted to sit on. That innovative process put Democratic Senators on subcommittees best suited to their individual expertise and gave them a strong voice in budget decisions.
"We're very happy to report that it's been a better budget process," Sen. Johnny Ellis (D - Anchorage) said. "This is an example of reaching across political party lines to get the job done and meet the needs of Alaskans."
Sen. Gary Wilken (R - Fairbanks) is Co-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. During a speech on the Senate floor prior to passage of the budget said, "This budget is filled with investments in Alaska's future and the hopes of all Alaskans. It's an extraordinary budget for extraordinary times."
The operating budget uses $2.6 billion dollars in general fund revenue, a $255 million dollar increase over last year. It's an optimistic, positive budget that invests the oil revenue windfall in education, a stronger social services safety net and public safety for all Alaskans.
It also invests some of the surplus to make Alaska's core industries even stronger. Increased funding for tourism and Alaskan seafood marketing will yield dividends for many years to come.
"With ANWR and a natural gas pipeline possibly on the way we need to use the surplus to prepare state and local governments for the dramatic impact those projects will have. This budget accomplishes that goal," said Senate President Ben Stevens.