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Meet Over Pizza Saturday? And Budget Testimony; Saturday Anchorage Caucus
Dear Friends and Neighbors:
Saturday Meeting with YOU Over Pizza
Senator Tom Begich and I are continuing the tradition started by our great former Senator, Johnny Ellis – a pizza and district constituent meeting this Saturday. We hope you can make it at Noon, at the Fairview Rec. Center (1121 E 10th Ave). We’ll listen to your thoughts, and talk about what we and other legislators are working on. If that’s not interesting enough, we’ll bring what we think is some of the best pizza in the city. Eighteen pizza pies to make sure we have enough.
Then… Meet with All Anchorage Legislators ….
At 2 p.m. on Saturday Anchorage legislators will meet with you, and take questions/listen to thoughts, at the annual Anchorage Caucus meeting. This will take place at UAA’s Rasmussen Hall (3416 Seawolf Dr.). Roughly 20 Anchorage-area legislators, Democrats, Republicans and Independents, should be at the meeting to listen to you.
Testimony this Week on the Operating Budget – What’s Important to You?
In past years some of my more conservative colleagues have proposed major education cuts, the elimination of all state-funded Pre-K, major cuts to the University, and cuts to prosecutors needed for public safety. Our Bi-Partisan House Majority Coalition has not agreed to these cuts to opportunity, and last year education cuts were blocked while we also stopped a prior course of cuts to prosecutors. We need to build back our ability to prosecute crimes. The current draft of the House budget adds funds back to the University and stops further education cuts. It also increases prosecution staff so we can reverse the troubling trend of an increasing percentage of crimes the state can’t prosecute do to prior years of staff cuts. Alaska has a roughly $2.5 billion budget deficit, but you deserve a strong community. Society can’t just be put on hold as legislators grapple with fixing the deficit.
I voted to close the deficit last year. Part of that plan, passed by our House Majority Coalition, but not by more conservative legislators in the Senate, said those with privilege should chip in too, in order for the plan to raise needed revenue and for it to be fair and balanced. It included a fair oil tax reform bill (a modest, equitable 25% tax on oil company profits; under current law most companies pay a 0% or miniscule production tax). That, too, was blocked by the Senate. Had that bill passed it would have closed our deficit by $550 million this year, been a strong part of a budget solution, and at today’s prices, would raise $700 million per year according to a report I requested from the Department of Revenue.
We’ll keep fighting for a full, fair plan that lets us fund public safety, schools, and a state you want to live in, and we’ll look for compromise, which takes all sides to engage in.
If a full and fair plan doesn’t succeed – the state will be out of savings next year, and, in my view, the Permanent Fund and the Dividend will start to be endangered. Some more conservative legislators are promoting a plan that relies almost solely on the Permanent Fund, and unfairly says the largest corporations and wealthiest Alaskans shouldn’t have to chip in. It doesn’t close the deficit. It leaves no room to return to a capital construction budget to put people back to work on building and road maintenance, needed repairs to the Anchorage Port, and needed renewable and other energy projects. I hope we can all act to fix the deficit this year because cutting $3.5 billion from the budget since 2013 alone, still leaves us with a $2.7 billion deficit.
Education: Reversing Past Cuts
Rep. Harriet Drummond, I and others have a separate bill, HB 339, to keep school funding up with inflation – a $100 per student funding increase - that needs to pass before it can become part of the budget. You can send us your thoughts on that legislation to email@example.com. Letters of support and letters to the editor are welcome!
How to Testify on the Budget and When
We will be hearing public testimony on the operating budget this week in the House Finance Committee. Your voice matters.
Here are the dates, times and locations and how to participate at your local Legislative Information Office. You can also submit your written testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org now through Saturday, March 3, to be included in the public record.
Thursday, March 1 (remember to sign in or call 30 minutes in advance!)
1:00 - 3:00 p.m. Homer, Kenai, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Mat-Su & Seward
Friday, March 2:
1:00 – 2:30 p.m. Juneau
2:45 – 3:45 p.m. Sitka, Petersburg, Delta Junction, Unalaska, Glennallen & Tok
4:00 – 5:00 p.m. Bethel, Cordova, Kotzebue, Nome, Valdez, Wrangell
5:00 - 6:00 p.m. Off Net sites – call 907-465-4648
Saturday, March 3:
9:00 - 10:00 a.m. Off Net sites – call 907-465-4648
10:15 – 11:45 a.m. Anchorage
12:00 - 1:00 p.m. Off Net sites – call 907-465-4648
As always, let me know if you have any questions, or need our help.