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Note from Rep. Les Gara
Note from Rep. Les Gara  
Budget Testimony: Need Your Voice!
Note from Rep. Les Gara

February 28, 2017

Voice Your Opinions!

Letters to the editor make a difference. You can send a letter of up to 200 words (shorter letters are more likely to be accepted) to the Alaska Dispatch News by email (letters@alaskadispatch.com); or by fax or mail (call them at 257-4308). Send letters to the Anchorage Press via e-mail editor@anchoragepress.com or by mail to 540 E. Fifth Ave, Anchorage, 99501. Feel free to call us if you need factual information to help you write a letter.

Contact the Governor. The Governor can be reached at 269-7450; or www.alaska.gov.

Contact us. My office can be reached at: 1500 W Benson Blvd, Rm 216, Anchorage, AK 99503; by phone: 269-0106; visit my website at http://replesgara.com; or email: Rep.Les.Gara@akleg.gov

Want to Volunteer To Help A Child?

You can be a Volunteer Mentor to help a child, through a program we worked with foster care advocates to start, at Big Brothers, Big Sisters.  Just call433-4691. Have the time to do more?  Alaska has a major shortage of foster and adoptive parents, and you can help change a life by doing that.  To ask about foster parenting or adopting a child out of foster care call 1-800-478-7307.  And, of course, we are always asking people to donate tax deductible new or used (good condition only) laptops for current and recent foster youth.  You can contact us if you'd like to do that.

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Dear Neighbors:

This Thursday through Saturday the House Finance Committee will hold public testimony on the budget. Your voice matters. You are encouraged to testify from your local Legislative Information Office (LIO) at the scheduled times below.

There are limited phone lines for telephonic testimony but if you can only call in, information on how to do that is provided below. However, priority for phone lines goes first to people who are “off net” in an area with no LIO.

I would note a few of the many subjects you might want to testify on.

First, our office has so far succeeded at adding help for neglected and abused children to reduce the overwhelming caseloads our child protection workers carry. In the Mat-Su office, these caseloads are 350% higher than the Office of Children’s Services-- our foster care agency—concedes is recommended. This damages lives, damages children, and damages families. We should act and not pretend everything is OK. Information on this issue is linked here.

Second, over $40 million has been cut from the University in the prior two years. I want a University that people want to attend and that trains Alaskans for the workforce. The current House Budget contains no University cuts.

Third, $6 million has been added in school funding to reverse a Governor’s veto of school busing funds. That cut, in some districts, has likely been paid for by teacher or curriculum cuts.

Today, a provision was added deleting state assistance for municipal school bond debt. The sponsor of the amendment saw this as a way to address the budget deficit without accepting a proposed $65 million cut to school funding proposed by Republican leaders in the Senate. While better for classroom funding that the Senate’s proposal, this amendment transfers roughly $50 million back to municipalities to pay the bond debt for local school construction and maintenance.

I would like to get out of this world where the state has to constrain needed support for good schools and basic services. With a roughly $3 billion deficit, it’s time the state acts on raising needed revenue, and ending unaffordable oil company subsidies.

Here is a link to a newsletter I previously sent on fixing the deficit and protecting our economy. The budget has been cut by over 40%, and more than $3 billion, since 2013, for those who wonder whether budget cuts have occurred.

The schedule for public testimony is as follows:

Thursday, March 2, 2017 1:00-6:00 PM
Public Testimony:

1:00 – 3:30 p.m.* Homer, Kenai, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Mat-Su & Seward
3:45 – 6:00 p.m.* Barrow, Dillingham & Fairbanks
**In the case of postponement, Thursday’s public testimony will be rescheduled as follows:
Saturday, March 4, 2017 – 3:00 – 5:00 PM – Homer, Kenai, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Mat-Su & Seward
Monday, March 6, 2017 – 1:30 – 3:45 PM – Barrow, Dillingham & Fairbanks

Friday, March 3, 2017 1:00-6:00 PM               
Public Testimony:

1:00 – 3:00 p.m.* Anchorage
3:15 – 4:45 p.m.* Sitka, Petersburg, Delta Junction, Unalaska, Glennallen & Tok
5:00 – 6:00 p.m.* Off Net sites

Saturday, March 4, 2017 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Public Testimony:

9:00 – 10:00 a.m.* Bethel, Cordova, Kotzebue, Nome, Valdez, Wrangell
10:00 - 11:00 a.m. * Off Net sites
1:00 – 3:00 p.m. Juneau
3:00 – 5:00 p.m. Overflow Public Testimony as needed

If it is not possible for you to testify Thursday or Friday at an LIO office, call our office and we will work to see if there is an open phone line for you to call into. On Saturday, please call the Juneau LIO office at 907-465-4648 for assistance testifying.

As always, call if you have any questions, or if we can help.

My Best,

[signed] Les Gara


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