In particular, some critics have charged that changes to the state’s retirement system to move new workers to defined contribution accounts and out of the existing defined benefit program will do nothing to slash the state’s $5.7 billion pension shortfall, the Associated Press reported. Murkowski claimed the pension changes were among the top accomplishments in the most recent legislative season (See Little Known Statute Delays Alaska Pension Reform Bill ).
The often bitter and contentious session, which went more than two weeks into overtime at a price of about $450,000, was widely followed by national public employee groups and was held up as an example of a national trend toward DC-type plans – a movement the groups bitterly oppose.
According to the Associated Press, Murkowski said the capital budget approved by lawmakers this year uses about $650 million in state funds. It is one of the largest capital budgets in the state’s history and is largely a result of high oil prices over the last year. Murkowski said the money will be used to build schools, roads and other necessary infrastructure. The state’s operating budget also jumped to $2.6 billion for fiscal year 2006 – about $200 million more than the budget approved in 2005.
Murkowski told his news conference that the large capital budget will help knock out the 71 items on the Department of Education’s list for major maintenance and construction projects. “The longer we put off maintenance the more it’s going to cost,” Murkowski said, according to the news report.