March 30, 2018
Working Towards A Budget for a Safer and Stronger Alaska
Rep. Kawasaki working on the House Floor
The budget is currently on hold as the House continues to negotiate for more Republican votes to pass it to the Senate. This budget protects and improves public safety, education, health care and the University, which have already experienced substantial cuts over the last several years. After making additional careful cuts and increasing efficiency, I will support this budget.
Last Monday, I sponsored the amendment to add a full PFD in the budget. Unless we pass a comprehensive fiscal plan, Alaskans deserve to receive their PFD in full. Why should it be that families, children, seniors and those in poverty bear the greatest responsibility to fund the budget, while oil companies continue to make huge profits on our oil wealth? I hope that the House and Senate can come together to make the goal of a sustainable Alaska fiscal plan a reality and come up with compromise to end the session on time in 90 days.
A Frugal Budget with Important Services
With funding provided through June 2019, this budget provides for essential services Alaskans count on, from education to public safety and highway repairs. This budget is pro-development and will help stabilize the economy by inspiring confidence in the small business community. As drafted, this budget is roughly the same level of support for services as the year 2009.
As chair of the Dept of Public Safety budget, I made some responsible cuts to excessive funding, while modestly increasing the budget to ensure priorities like Troopers and Village Public Safety Officers can respond to emergencies in rural areas of Alaska. Recent news has highlighted the increasing need to address public safety in rural Alaska due to cuts made in prior years. I am hopeful this will be subject to a compromise in the Senate.
Rep. Kawasaki & Rep. Guttenberg considering budget priorities for Fairbanks
The budget also addresses the need to assist hospital-based mental health treatment programs impacted by the lack of beds at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute. This was an important issue for our hospital in Fairbanks and others statewide. Another priority for Fairbanks was reinstating funding for the Museum Grant-in-Aid program, a very small expense to support nonprofit programs.
There is also more support for attorneys and staff so the state can rapidly prosecute criminal cases and address rising crime rates. My colleagues and I in the House Majority also included additional support to the University to help offset the $60 million cut since 2014. Investing in the University attracts additional outside grant money and trains an Alaska-grown workforce while providing excellent return on investment in our economy, particularly in Fairbanks.
The House also added funds for fishery assessments so that Alaska fishermen can fill their freezers knowing that we will have enough fish in future years. The budget maintains funding for K-12 education so students and teachers have the resources they need for quality education.
Many military service members retire in Alaska and the average workload for a Veterans Services Officer has been increasing by 3,700 each year. With more than 63,000 veterans in Alaska, the increase in funding to provide for an additional Veterans Services Officer will help veterans get the benefits they deserve.
Remember, Saturday, March 31 is the last day to file for your PFD! Go to pfd.alaska.gov to file online or double-check whether you need to submit additional information.
Public Testimony Opportunity for HB 277: Net Neutrality
There will be two opportunities to testify on HB 277 next week, which would protect net neutrality in Alaska while the FCC order reversing net neutrality officially goes into effect on April 23. My bill will be heard in House Finance on Tuesday, April 3 at 10:00am and Wednesday, April 4 at 1:30pm. Call (844) 586-9085 at those times to voice your comments. You can also email your public testimony to House.Finance@akleg.gov or sign a form letter of support here.
As always, feel free to drop me a line about any concerns, questions or ideas you have as the legislative session winds down.
Working Hard for Fairbanks Families,
Representative Scott Kawasaki
Alaska State Representative
City of Fairbanks
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