APRIL 20, 2017
Representing District 17:
Midtown, University, and East Anchorage
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Anchorage, AK 99503
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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter and staying involved with the goings-on of our state. It continues to be an honor to represent you in Juneau and to work on your behalf. Much has happened here in the last couple weeks. I hope this update finds you well and helps you stay informed.
Budget and Taxes
After the 2016 election, our caucus of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents banded together for the purpose of creating a comprehensive fiscal plan and ending our state’s fiscal crisis. On Saturday, April 15, we made the monumental move of approving a statewide income tax in the form of HB 115.
A lot has been said about HB 115, so I encourage you to read up on it for yourself. If you’d like to learn how you or your family would be affected, Rep. Seaton’s office prepared a guide which you can view here.
On April 15, 2017, the House passed HB 115, the 3rd pillar in the House Majority’s 4-pillar plan to close the deficit and balance the budget.
The House Majority has a 4-pillar plan (above) which we’ve designed to close the budget deficit and end our fiscal crisis. The passage of HB 115 represents the third pillar of the plan. The Senate is now holding hearings on the bill in Senate Labor and Commerce.
When does the tax become effective?
One of the chief complaints about the income tax is that we’re passing it in the midst of an economic recession. We agreed that it would be better to start the tax later. That is why we placed an effective date of January 1, 2019 in the bill. However, effective dates require the approval of a super-majority or two-thirds of the House (or 27 members). Unfortunately, the House Republican Minority blocked the effective date. The net result is that the income tax would be required a full year faster than otherwise (essentially, it would begin in 2018 rather than 2019). Put differently, the failure of the House’s effective date means that the state (if the bill becomes law) could begin collecting taxes on income earned by Alaskan residents 90 days after the income tax becomes law.
The Permanent Fund
The House passed Senate Bill 26 last week. This was a Governor’s bill on using earnings from the Permanent Fund Reserve to help pay down the deficit. In the Senate version of the bill, that chamber lowered the Permanent Fund Dividend to $1000 per year for this year and next year. In the House version of the bill, we voted to raise the dividend to $1,250. The bill (standing alone) shaves the deficit down to $700 million.
On the House Floor debating.
Oil-tax Legislation – CALL TO ACTION –
Many of my constituents have written to say that they do not want to be taxed if their tax dollars go to paying off oil company tax credits. In the House we passed HB 111, which eliminated the cash for credit program and provided a modest revenue increase to the state. Now the bill is being heard before the Senate Resources Committee. A description of the major provisions of the bill can be viewed here.
It’s important for the Senators to hear from you, the people of Alaska. Please send your thoughts to the Senate Resources Committee: Senate.Resources@akleg.gov
HB 105 is my bill to protect wolves from hunting and trapping in an area adjacent to the Denali National Park. Before 2010, when wolves were protected from hunting in the park, as many as 45% of park visitors reported wolf sightings. Four years later, that dropped to 6%. Wildlife viewing brings in more than a half-billion dollars in revenue to Alaska’s economy annually. Not only does HB 105 protect wolves from trapping and hunting, it helps protect Alaska’s valuable tourism industry. I’m happy to report that HB 105 moved out of House Resources, and is scheduled for a hearing in House Finance.
Board of Game Membership Diversity
HB 134 creates a non-consumptive use seat on the Board of Game. This would give a voice to those who enjoy or profit from Alaska’s wildlife for uses other than harvesting. The bill recently passed out of House Resources and is now waiting to be scheduled on the House Floor. Note that this seat is not designed to be anti-hunting. Rather, it is designed to give voice to those who are opposed to methods and means of killing predators (predator control) that were previously forbidden by the State of Alaska.
Municipal Regulation of Trapping
My bill to allow municipalities to regulate trapping, HB 201, may soon be ready for a House Floor vote. I believe this will allow multiple-uses of local trails and secure the safety of walkers, skiers, and most importantly, their dogs.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
HB 38 adjusts the Permanent Partial Impairment rating for inflation, and provides death benefits to the parents or estate of an employee who is unmarried and has no dependents, and who dies on the job. Last week, HB 38 moved out of House Labor and Commerce. On Tuesday, it had its first hearing before House Finance where it found strong support from the committee. I’m hopeful that the bill will get a vote by the full House this session.
HB 13 would prevent state or municipal funds from being used to support a registry based on race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin. It’s meant to protect the liberties of Alaskan residents, and has the effect of also protecting our local governments from unfunded federal mandates. After making it out of State Affairs last month, it had its first hearing before Judiciary last Saturday.
Survivors’ Benefits Bill
Yesterday HB 23 passed the Senate unanimously!
HB 23 maintains health insurance for the families of peace officers and firefighters who die in the line of duty. I’m proud to report that it passed unanimously in the Senate, though with some changes from the House version. Overall, I am pleased with the results. However, the Senate decided to make municipal participation in the program optional rather than mandatory, as the House had proposed. It is my hope that municipalities will choose to participate, and if not, that we revisit this issue in the next legislative session. Passage of this legislation is long overdue and I am appreciative of the bipartisan support that saw it through to completion.
I look forward to receiving your thoughts on any of these or other issues, as it is you, my constituents, that guide every step I take toward a better Alaska.
Thank you and have a great week!
I Answer to You!
Representative Andy Josephson
1500 W. Benson Blvd., Suite 229