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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It’s been a long session in Juneau and, as you likely know, we are now into overtime with the first special session (more details below), called by Governor Walker because the legislature didn’t agree on a budget for FY2018 or needed new revenues.
Our House Majority Coalition passed a complete fiscal plan including strategic budget cuts, reforming our broken oil and gas tax system, a guaranteed PFD (higher than what the Senate proposed), a modest income tax (HB115), and full funding for K12 education.
This is what we said we’d do when we organized on November 9 and it was done by March 20. The Senate Republican Majority simply recycled their Permanent Fund Restructuring Plan from last session and brought it forward as their PFD-only solution to Alaska’s fiscal crisis.
House Plan vs. Senate Plan: AKHere2Stay or DrainNPray?
Speaking of plans, recently we added a page to our website comparing the House Plan with the Senate Plan. Please take a look and see which one works best for you. We’re calling the Senate Plan the “DrainNPray” plan because it drains our savings accounts and relies on higher oil prices in the future to balance the budget, something we know we have no control over at all and what got us in this mess in the first place. We call the House Plan the “AKHere2Stay” plan because we love Alaska and want to fix the economy, give the stability businesses need for investment, stop the job losses, and start moving forward in the state we love. There’s also a link to print out the comparison and if you are talking with family, friends, or co-workers about what’s happening in the legislature this might be helpful.
Constituent Survey: Update Us on Your Views Today
In January, the Senate Republican Majority polled Alaskans on K12 education funding, broad-based taxes, and adjusting oil company tax credits. Those results showed Alaskans favor a comprehensive fiscal plan that includes reducing tax credits for the oil and gas industry, a broad-based tax, and continuing to fully fund K12 education. To date, they’ve ignored the guidance of the over 7,000 Alaskans that participated in the poll. For example, 54% support an income tax, but they didn’t even hold hearings before voting down House Bill 115.
Now, as the Special Session begins, we are curious to know where public opinion stands. Please take a minute to complete the survey.
Here are links to calculators to let you get a rough idea of possible impacts on your own household:
The Senate and House have appointed a Conference committee to work on the budget which gives me hope for seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. The house has appointed Representatives Neal Foster, Paul Seaton and Steve Thompson. The Senate has appointed Senators Anna MacKinnon, Lyman Hoffman, and Donny Olson. The Conference Committee is tasked with resolving the differences in the budget in order to deliver a workable budget to the Governor.
Both legislative bodies FINALLY held a joint session to review Governor Walker’s appointments to state commissions and boards. I am happy to say I voted to confirm every appointee except one. The Governor’s appointees are highly qualified and will do good work for Alaska. The successful joint session confirming nearly all of the governor’s appointees is a good sign of both bodies wanting to get their work done before the start of the 2018 Fiscal Year.
Governor Walker recently visited a number of community councils, certainly a first ever for many of them! He addressed the fiscal issues Alaska is facing and how he thinks they can be solved. The governor spoke very positively on the House and Senate working together and is optimistic about solving the deficit and getting Alaska on track to financial stability.
Special Session On May 17th Governor Walker issued a Special Session proclamation. Since both House and Senate have gaveled out and officially adjourned from the regular session, but without a budget in place, Gov. Walker ordered a special session in which he sets the agenda for the legislators to work on. The agenda set by the governor includes:
Yesterday the Senate passed the Opioid bill with some minor changes from the version the House passed on May 22. I expect the House will concur and this will be the first successful bill to pass during the special session.
I know its short notice but join me for coffee Saturday!
Because I am home in Anchorage instead of collecting per diem in Juneau for doing nothing, I plan to be at the Spenard Farmers Market tomorrow morning, Saturday, June 2, at 9 a.m. Please join me for a cup of coffee and a chat about how you’d like to see things go in Juneau.
If you are in Anchorage you can testify to the House Finance & Resources Committees on the state budget tonight at 6:00pm and Friday at 1:00pm. Public testimony will be state wide and we hope to hear everyone’s thoughts.
The committee would prefer it if people go in person to the legislative information office which is at 1500 W. Benson Blvd. If you are not able to testify in person or don’t feel like leaving the house feel free to send written testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be great if you could copy me as well at Rep.Harriet.Drummond@akleg.gov. Again, looking forward to hearing from you.
There are lots of budget cuts, and there has been big turnout for the public testimony so far. Many people have asked the committee to reconsider cuts to behavioral health in particular. For a more in depth breakdown of the proposed cuts to each department please see our last newsletter.
Along with voting, public testimony is one of the most democratic things we can do to make our voices heard—and ultimately make Alaska a better place.