The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute put on a tasting event for buyers and food media writers during the recent trade trip to China organized by Gov. Bill Walker. (Photo/Courtesy/Anchorage Economic Development Corp.)

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute put on a tasting event for buyers and food media writers during the recent trade trip to China organized by Gov. Bill Walker. (Photo/Courtesy/Anchorage Economic Development Corp.)

State departments have an eye toward budget hikes

Legislative and governor candidates have vowed across the state to further cut Alaska’s budget, but many state departments drafting their budget requests for the coming fiscal year are going in a different direction.

On Friday, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute became the latest state-supported agency to warn that budget cuts have reached their limit and in some places have gone too far.

In an unusual statement, the public-private partnership said it will be requesting $3.75 million more from the state in the coming year.

“There’s only so much you can do to squeeze down on the role and responsibilities of state government, and as far as others, there’s some departments looking at increments … I guess mostly in programs that will pay long-term benefits,” said Mike Navarre, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Commerce, which controls ASMI’s budget.

An “increment,” in the jargon of the state, is a budget increase.

“We used to invest in seafood marketing. We’re looking to do it again,” Navarre said.

For the current fiscal year, the state budget is $11.277 billion, according to figures from the nonpartisan Legislative Finance Division. That includes $1 billion for Permanent Fund Dividends, $1.45 billion for construction and renovation projects in the capital budget, and $9.77 billion for operations.

In an analysis released in August, the Legislative Finance Division warned that keeping the budget flat will cost $200 million more in revenue, partially because the Legislature used so many one-time accounts to make ends meet.

With the money in those accounts (about $77.5 million) gone, the state will need to find new sources of cash.

In addition, the Legislature deliberately underfunded Medicaid services by $50 million and pledged to put more money toward K-12 education and the retirement system for state employees.

Lawmakers will need to pay for all of that if they want to keep the budget flat. Many state departments aren’t asking for flat funding, however. They’re like ASMI: They’re asking for more, hoping that the fiscal climate is right.

Oil prices have risen since the Alaska Legislature approved the state budget this spring, and — barring another dip in prices or production — the price may be high enough to erase a projected budget deficit. The state could even run a small surplus.

Since 1981, the state has levied a small tax on seafood landings in Alaska in order to pay for a cooperative marketing program. When Outside restaurants promote “wild Alaska salmon” or king crab, they’re buying into a reputation for quality and purity that ASMI has helped establish.

“We as Alaskans, we know that we have the best fish in the world, and it comes from the purest environments,” said ASMI spokesman Jeremy Woodrow. “What’s often forgotten is that there is a similar or identical competing species.”

ASMI’s mission is to preserve the reputation of Alaska seafood, but it is warning that budget cuts have endangered that mission. The ongoing trade war with China and international competition is making Alaska seafood less competitive on price. That means it needs to compete on quality, and that takes marketing.

In the past five years, the state’s support for ASMI (above and beyond the fish tax) has declined from $7.8 million to zero.

Those cuts have side effects as well. Without state funding, ASMI cannot match federal grants available for marketing. Those grants account for $4.5 million of ASMI’s remaining $20.6 million budget.

“We’re circling back and realizing that if it’s going to be a public-private partnership, there needs to be some public funds in this partnership,” Woodrow said.

ASMI’s requests for additional funding are believed to be typical of what is happening behind the scenes as state bureaucrats draft their budget plans. The Empire submitted a public records request for each department’s budget requests but was rejected by the governor’s office, which said those documents are protected under an aspect of the state records laws that locks up work in progress.

The first draft of state budget requests will not be published until December, but some departments, like ASMI, have made their preferences known. In regard to public safety, the requests are expected to include more funding for troopers, prosecutors and drug treatment programs.

The University of Alaska board of regents is finalizing its budget request at a meeting early next month. That request is expected to ask for more state funding as well.

None of these requests are final: The budget must be approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor before becoming effective. In this case, who that governor will be is unknown.

In the case of ASMI, Navarre said he believes it’s worth it to ask.

“In terms of the Alaska brand, ASMI has done — it’s a great example of a public-private partnership,” he said. “This is one that makes good sense.”

• Contact reporter James Brooks at or 523-2258.

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of July 20

Here’s what to expect this week.

Bartlett Regional Hospital’s crisis stabilization center during its unveiling on June 14, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Bartlett Regional Hospital shuts down programs at recently opened Aurora Behavioral Health Center

Crisis stabalization program halted at center due to lack of funds and staff, officials say.

A car on Gastineau Avenue is partially buried by a mudslide that occurred during record rainfall on Sunday, July 14, 2024. (Photo by Simba Blackman)
New July rainfall record set for Juneau with a week to go; Suicide Basin nears 2023 fill level

No more heavy storms expected this month, according to forecaster.

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. Board of Trustees votes for a new chair and vice chair during a meeting in Fairbanks on Wednesday. (Screenshot from APFC livestream)
Ellie Rubenstein resigns from Permanent Fund board, Ethan Schutt displaced as chair in wake of email allegations

Trustees elect new chair, vice chair Wednesday morning; Rubenstein announces resignation hours later

Police and other emergency officials treat Steven Kissack after he was shot on Front Street on Monday, July 15, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Names of officers involved in death of Steven Kissack released, along with more details of standoff

JPD states Kissack threatened to kill officers; one officer who fired gun cleared in 2016 shooting.

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, speaks on Jan. 4, 2024, at a town hall meeting on the possible Albertsons-Kroger grocery merger. The meeting was held at the Teamsters Local 959 headquarters in Anchorage. Peltola said on Tuesday she has not decided whether to support her party’s likely candidate, Vice President Kamala Harris. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Rep. Mary Peltola withholds support for Kamala Harris, is ‘keeping an open mind’

Congresswoman says she’s considering Harris presidency’s affect on Alaska as an oil-dependent state.

People arrive for a service at Resurrection Lutheran Church on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Lawsuit: Resurrection Lutheran Church leaders have been ousted, clarity in ‘ministerial work’ needed

Pastor Karen Perkins, two others targeted in long-brewing feud at church known for helping homeless.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Sunday, July 21, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Saturday, July 20, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read