Protecting Your Rights: Serving Sand Lake, Spenard, and Turnagain
March 28, 2018
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last week, my colleagues and I spent days on the House Floor debating amendments to the FY19 operating budget, House Bill 286. This week, we resumed our work on the budget. As we move forward, I will continue to prioritize a budget that is a responsible action plan for Alaska and includes adequate funding for public safety and education.
Operating Budget Update
This time last year, I shared my concerns that “continued cuts could leave Alaska with diminished public safety, lower quality public education, and declining economic development opportunities.” Today, Alaskans continue to have those same concerns.
Continued budget cuts have severely limited the ability of the state to prosecute criminals and education cuts have caused teacher layoffs and, in turn, teacher shortages as valuable educators leave the state to find job security. The court system remains closed on Friday afternoon, creating fewer time slots for trials, and we continue to lack behavioral health resources to fully address the opioid crisis. As we listen to our friends and neighbors, it’s apparent that Alaska is hurting from budget cuts, and we need an operating budget that reflects the values and needs of our state.
This year’s FY19 budget totals $5.35 billion in General Fund (GF) dollars. This budget represents a small increase of $170.8 million over the FY18 Management Plan budget, but is still down nearly one billion ($833.4) from FY15.
Last week, 84 amendments were submitted on the House Floor. While some were withdrawn and others were ruled out of order, as of Monday, only five amendments were adopted. One of the amendments increases this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend from the finance committee-approved amount of $1,258 to $2,707. Without adjusting for inflation, this PFD would be the largest dividend in state history. The House voted 21Y-19N in favor of the amendment. I did not support this amend, in part because the measure would add $892 million to the state budget.
The operating budget remains under consideration in the House and still contains significant changes:
For more information on Alaska’s budget and appropriation process, click here for the Swiss Army Knife Guide to Budgets.
Governor Walker Signs “Fast Track” Supplemental Appropriation Bill
This week, Governor Bill Walker signed legislation making time-sensitive appropriations to cover unanticipated expenses. This fast-track supplemental bill is a product of the House and Senate cooperating to address urgent funding needs and shared priorities for the FY18 (current) budget.
The appropriations in House Bill 321 total $110.2 million, of which $92.0 million is from unrestricted general funds (UGF). The bill bridges budget gaps to pay doctors and keep ferries and prisons operating. Major items in the bill include $45 million for the Medicaid program to cover provider costs through April, $18.3 million for the Department of Corrections to cover higher than anticipated numbers of inmates and inmate health care costs, and $24 million to fund the Alaska Marine Highway System. HB 321 also deposits $30 million for the Community Assistance Fund for distribution in FY19, transfers $4 million to the Alaska Disaster Relief Fund, and provides $5 million for the Alaska Permanent Fund to pay for increased investment management related to recent growth to the fund.
Spring 2018 Revenue Forecast
Last week, the Department of Revenue (DOR) released the Spring 2018 Revenue Forecast. The update is a collaborative effort among DOR, the Department of Natural Resources, the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, and the Office of Management and Budget.
In December, DOR predicted that the price of oil would be $56 per barrel this year. DOR has since revised its view on the near-term oil price since the fall forecast, and the spring revenue forecast is based on an annual Alaska North Slope (ANS) oil price of $61 per barrel for FY18 and $63 for FY19.
Unrestricted General Fund (UGF) revenue is now forecast to be $2.3 billion in FY18 and $2.3 billion in FY19. Compared to the projection in the fall 2017 forecast, the forecast represents an increase in expected UGF revenue of $256 million for FY18 and $212 million for FY19.
While the spring revenue forecast brings good news and hopeful predictions, the state still faces a $2.5 billion budget deficit this year. Higher oil prices don’t remove the need for a responsible action plan for Alaska.
House Bill 75 Update & March for Our Lives Rally
On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee adopted a Committee Substitute (Version R) to House Bill 75.
The CS narrows the scope of the bill to allow only peace officers to file a petition for a protective order against a respondent if they reasonably believe that the respondent is a dangerous individual. Under the bill, an individual is considered dangerous if the individual presents an immediate risk of personal injury to self or others or is at risk of violence in the future in specified circumstances. The bill includes specific language indicating that mental illness alone does not determine that an individual is dangerous.
On Saturday, an estimated 1,500 people converged on Delaney Park Strip to join in the March for Our Lives rally. The event drew community members, students, teachers, school administrators, and many more to speak out about ending gun violence. The event highlights the need for continued conversations about reducing gun violence.
Permanent Fund Dividend Filing Deadline
This is the last week to file for your 2018 PFD. Online applications can be filed up to 11:59 PM AKDT on Saturday March 31st. Signature pages are not due by March 31st, although they should be provided as soon as possible after the application is filed. Office locations in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau are open until 4:00 PM to accept timely paper applications Monday – Friday. PFD Offices will NOT be open on Saturday, March 31st, 2018. Mailed applications must be postmarked no later than March 31st to be considered timely. Applications received or postmarked April 1st or later will be denied. For more information on filing check out https://pfd.alaska.gov/.
Mark your calendar for these upcoming events:
Spenard Community Council
Turnagain Community Council
Sand Lake Community Council
Come enjoy a fun evening and support Alaska’s trails. In the spirit of the popular Anchorage Arctic Entries series, local storytellers will share seven minute stories about their trail experiences, adventures and life in general. This month, the non-profit organization Alaska Trails will team up with the Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage to present stories. Storytellers include Dick Mize, Erica Carrol, Aubrey Smith and more.
Food and drinks will be available for purchase throughout the evening. Check out the Facebook event for more information.
When: Thursday, March 29th, from 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
2018 Merry Marmot Festival
Join the locals at Arctic Valley's annual spring festival! Arctic Valley packs the day with activities for the whole family, including fat tire bike races, tubing races, parallel slalom, downhill dummy launch, kids' snowshoe obstacle race, a costume contest and uphill/downhill relay race and live music. There's plenty to keep everyone entertained. If you aren't going to participate, come up to watch-admission is free!
More information is available online.
When: Saturday, March 31th, from 10:30 AM – 6:30 PM