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State Budget Officials In Alaska For Annual Gathering

It may be the dog days of summer, but it’s peak conference season. And as much of the nation melts under a heat wave, one conference stands out for both its location and its attendees.

The National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) — representing the state officials who count the pennies and balance the accounts — is having its annual meeting this week in Anchorage. The implementation of federal health law known as Obamacare is a big item on the agenda, including a discussion about states’ costs to expand Medicaid and to shift the program to managed care. Budget chiefs from Maryland and Florida, two states moving in opposite directions on the law, will talk about Medicaid expansion.

Scott Pattison, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based group, said this is the association’s first-ever conference in Alaska. About 80 attendees were expected , which he said is “moderately less” than usual. The pricey airfare to Alaska — which tops $700 from many U.S. cities — could be one factor. He notes the group had its annual event in Hawaii a few years ago. “As staff, we don’t like it since it’s such a trek, but as the Hawaii budget director says, “hey, we’re states too.’”

Next year, the group returns to the lower 48 for a meeting in Rapid City, S.D.

While the state budget officers meet in cool Alaska, state lawmakers will not have it as good. The National Conference of State Legislatures has its annual meeting next month in Atlanta.