|Protecting Your Rights: Serving Sand Lake, Spenard, and Turnagain|
|March 17, 2017
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This week on the House floor we are hearing House Bill 57, the proposed FY18 operating budget. The budget is our top priority and we’re working every day on a responsible action plan for Alaska.
Operating Budget: “What kind of Alaska do we want to live in?”
On Monday, the State House began considering the operating budget in a series of sessions on the House floor. Since 2013, we’ve cut $3.5 billion in state spending- a 38% reduction. Through subcommittee hearings examining every aspect of state spending and public presentations around Alaska, the public and the legislature have come to recognize that we cannot bridge the projected $2.7 billion deficit by budget cuts alone. As we look for cost savings in the operating budget, we look carefully at cuts over the last 3 years and examine how state government is fulfilling its duty to provide essential services.
Representative Paul Seaton of Homer often asks: “What kind of Alaska do we want to live in?” Economists agree that Alaska is now in a recession. Continued cuts could leave Alaska with diminished public safety, lower quality public education, and declining economic development opportunities. Education remains our best investment for the future, and we have a constitutional duty to maintain a strong public school system. Continued cuts to mental health programs and treatment facilities puts Alaska’s most vulnerable population at risk. And a series of cuts to the state prosecutor’s office has caused a marked decline in the number of criminal prosecutions and convictions. Further cuts may undermine public safety and education and could drive Alaska into a deeper recession.
The right to public education and the duty to maintain a public school system are established in the Alaska Constitution. The proposed operating budget, HB 57, funds public education at the levels recommended by the Governor. The House Department of Education budget includes funding for school bond debt reimbursement, effective pre-kindergarten education programs, and reasonable student-faculty ratios. The Department of Law budget includes 3 new prosecutors to help reverse the recent decline in total prosecutions. And as a resource development state, the legislature is working to improve efficiencies, while reasonably funding the regulatory agencies so that private industry can continue to thrive in Alaska. In HB 57, we propose funding the Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation where we can show investors and developers that we are open and ready for business.
As we continue the budget process, I remain committed to reasonable funding for public safety, public education, and a strong Alaska economy.
Insurance Coverage for Families of Deceased Police Officers and Firefighters
This week, the House unanimously approved House Bill 23, which establishes a fund to provide medical benefits for families of peace officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty. Alaskans first began learning about this issue in 2014, after the tragic shooting death of two state troopers when their wives and children were left without health insurance. The fund will be available for needs-based appropriations to provide health insurance to families of public safety employees who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the course of service to Alaska. Under HB 23, families qualify until the surviving spouse becomes eligible for other medical coverage or reaches the age of 65. The bill also specifies that children will have insurance coverage until the age of 26.
Mark your calendar for these upcoming community events:
Alaska Common Ground – From Here to the Future: Transforming Anchorage/Mat-Su Transportation
Alaska Common Ground is presenting a series of paneled discussions exploring how to improve and transform our local transportation systems. These events will all be free and open to the public. Click here for more information or here for a flyer of the events.
Panel Discussion: How does transportation planning work and how do I engage?
West Anchorage Assembly & School Board Candidates Forum
The North Star, Sand Lake, Spenard and Turnagain Community Councils are sponsoring a West Anchorage Candidates Forum this month. Come enjoy refreshments and hear Anchorage School Board and West Anchorage Assembly Candidates speak at the Spenard Recreation Center. Get information on ballot bonds and propositions and chat one-on-one with the candidates.
When: Wednesday, March 29th, 6:00-8:30 pm
As always, please let us know if you have any question or concerns.
Rep. Matt Claman
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