Whose Budget Numbers Are the “Right” Numbers?

Analyzing the FY24 budgetWe’ve had a few questions about why the amounts and percentages in our post-session budget analysis are different than amounts some others are stating. The following is how we calculate budget numbers.  

Alaska Policy Forum (APF) always includes all state funds in our numbers, not just Undesignated General Funds (UGF). We add UGF, Designated Funds (DGF) and “Other” state funds together to get total state appropriations. Other policymakers often refer only to UGF amounts. But sometimes, expenses are moved from UGF to DGF or “Other” to make UGF look lower, when in fact, that same appropriation is still being made — but from another fund. Those dollars are still being designated to leave state coffers, so we feel it is only fair to show Alaskans the full scope of the budget. For an in-depth explanation, read this report. We do recognize that some DGF and “Other” appropriations are simply pass-through dollars and not optional spending. But over time, more and more elective spending has been moved into these columns. Thus, we feel it is important to include them in the total.  

In referring to the state-funds budget, APF excludes the Permanent Fund Dividend appropriation. Many people and organizations in Alaska spend a lot of time and effort discussing the pros and cons of the PFD. Almost no other organization talks about the size and scope of state government. We want our readers to have a clear understanding of the cost to our state’s bottom line for running the state on a day-to-day basis, and for state payments on infrastructure projects. And that’s what our numbers include.  

APF typically uses budget numbers published by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) rather than the Legislative Finance Division (LFD) when discussing total state appropriations. However, before the Governor signs the budget, the only numbers available are from LFD, so our recent analysis used the LFD numbers. Once the Governor makes any vetoes and signs the FY 2024 budget, APF will release an official budget analysis, with a year-over-year comparison using numbers published by OMB.