Representative Andy Josephson

District 17: Midtown, University, & East Anchorage

I Answer to You!

Your Voice in the Alaska House of Representatives

Josephson’s Journal

 

Friends and Neighbors,

 

On Monday, the Governor signed the Operating Budget (HB 2001, a supplemental Operating Budget). Governor Dunleavy chose to double-down on many of his callous vetoes, while choosing to accept the Legislature’s funding in many areas. Although the re-vetoed items represent over $200 million in programs which Alaskans rely on every day, the Governor chose to back off on about 41% of his vetoes after facing unprecedented public outrage.

 

Groundhog Day for Vetoes (Previous Vetoes Were on June 28th)

 

The supplemental Operating Budget which was signed Monday restores most funding to the University system, Senior Benefits, the State Council on the Arts, Alaska Legal Services, as well as some – but not all! - homeless assistance programs and agricultural programs (seed bank, industrial hemp program, etc.), while implementing many of the previous vetoes all over again. Despite strong public outcry against his cuts, Governor Dunleavy again vetoed funding for School Bond Debt Reimbursement (this will cost the average Anchorage homeowner about $210 per year), Public Broadcasting, the Ocean Rangers Program, Medicaid, Village Public Safety Officers, Civil Air Patrol, the ferry system, and more.

 

After Dunleavy vetoed $130 million for the University of Alaska system, the Board of Regents was forced to declare financial exigency due to inadequate funding (Good news! Yesterday, the Board of Regents undid this declaration!). Although he chose to accept $110 million in restored funding (and signed a non-legally binding agreement with the Board of Regents detailing future spending cuts), a $25 million reduction this year will hurt the University system specifically and Anchorage in general. The Legislature has cut University funding in four of the last five years, and these new cuts go too far. As with many of his decisions, the Governor’s unilateral cuts to the University seem to have been made without regard for the impact they will have on Alaska’s people, communities, and economy. Still, the University of Alaska has pulled a rabbit out of the hat, so to speak. At least for the coming year, the University will largely survive intact.

 

Full lists of the items which have been re-vetoed (and reinstated) can be found here and here.

 

Presenting Caroline Kurgat with a legislative citation in honor of her unprecedented success as a Seawolf runner. Presenting the East High Football team with a legislative citation in honor of their championship season last fall.Presenting Legislative Citations to Caroline Kurgat (left) and the East High Football Team (above). Miss Kurgat recently finished her collegiate running career at UAA as a 7-time NCAA champion, and the T-Bird football team won the large school state championship last fall. At far right is Head Coach Jeff Trotter, and at left is my colleague, Rep. Geran Tarr.

 

Capital Budget

 

I’d like to thank the thousands of Alaskans who contacted me about the Governor’s vetoes. By an overwhelming majority, you’ve made clear that the services he cut are valued and necessary to maintain Alaska as a viable place to live, work, and play. Although it took some time, this level of sustained public outrage absolutely made a difference – many legislators were forced to reconsider their support for the Governor, and we ultimately passed new budgets which countered many – but not enough! - of the Governor’s cuts while providing for a $1,600 PFD. I’ve heard the message that, if pressed, my district prefers state services to a full PFD. (Hopefully, next year this question will no longer be a binary one! In other words, we can look at new revenue, like an increase in oil production taxes).

 

Most of the public’s focus has been on Operating Budget vetoes. Governor Dunleavy also vetoed important items from the Capital Budget (SB 2002). He vetoed funding for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, weatherization and energy programs, addiction treatment, homeless assistance funding, and earthquake monitoring. These programs provide critical service and value to Alaskans, and should not have been cut.

 

The Cold Climate Housing Research Center had their entire appropriation cut. CCHRC works to improve housing and building efficiency statewide, and its work has been utilized statewide for over 20 years. The USArray is a series of geotechnical sensors statewide which are used to collect data on earthquakes, weather, and other phenomena. If the state doesn’t purchase the sensors this year, they are scheduled to be removed from the state by the federal government.

 

Alaska faces ongoing challenges with Arctic housing, addiction, and natural disasters, and many of us in the Legislature believe that Alaska must confront these challenges head-on. The Governor does not appear to share that belief.

 

Speaking on the House floor in favor of HB 2002, the Capital Budget.

Speaking on the House floor in favor of HB 2002, the Capital Budget.

 

Reverse Sweep:

 

Alaska’s Constitution bars dedicated funds, but there are numerous pools of money which are designated to a specific program or activity. In order to reconcile this, all of the money in these pools is ‘swept’ into the state’s General Fund at the end of the fiscal year, followed by an immediate ‘reverse sweep’ at the beginning of the following fiscal year (Literally, the sweep occurs at 11:59 pm on June 30th and the reverse sweep should occur at 12:01 am on July 1st). The problem is that a ¾ vote of the Legislature is required to approve the reverse sweep, and some of my colleagues in the House refused to vote for it before the beginning of the fiscal year. On top of that, Governor Dunleavy chose to sweep many pools of money which had never been subject to the reverse sweep requirement, and he publicly stated that he was not in favor of the reverse sweep itself.

 

The net effect of this was that, for over a month, programs like the Alaska Performance Scholarship, WWAMI program (Alaska’s only medical school), and Power Cost Equalization were defunded, leading to uncertainty for Alaska’s students, rural communities, and others. Thankfully, the Legislature was able to scrape together the 45 votes necessary to fix this issue on July 28th. Now, funds appropriated for these vital programs are available for Alaskans to use.

 

A picture containing text, screenshotDescription automatically generatedUpcoming Events/Items of Interest:

 

The Anchorage Legislative Office Building will be hosting an open house TODAY from 4-6 pm. Please feel free to pop in and say ‘hi!’

 

 

 

Anchorage’s plastic bag ban will go into effect September 15th! Businesses will no longer provide plastic bags and will begin charging 10 cents per bag.

 

 

2019 has been an historic year in the Alaska Legislature. To provide some historical context, I have written a chronology of 2019 legislative events that you are welcome to review here.

 

I always appreciate hearing from constituents.

 

You can contact me by phone at 269-0265 or 1-800-465-4939. I am also available by email at rep.andy.josephson@akleg.gov. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

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Please Contact Me!

State Capitol Bldg, Room 502

Juneau, AK 99801

(907) 465-4939

(800) 465-4939

Contact Other Elected Officials

Governor Mike Dunleavy

907-269-7450

Email

Senator Dan Sullivan

907-271-5915

Email

Senator Lisa Murkowski

907-271-3735

Email

Congressman Don Young

907-271-5978

Email

Write a Letter to the Editor

Submit your 175 word letter to the Anchorage Daily News, attn: letters to the editor

email: letters@adn.com; fax: 907-258-2157