May 11, 2018
Day 116: Legislative Session in Final Days
This past week, the legislature made some big decisions necessary to get to the finish line. Here is a quick recap on some of the major issues, where I stand and what else remains before we head home.
Rep. Kawasaki speaking on the floor about protecting the PFD
- HB 331: Borrowing to Pay Oil Companies. This bill passed the House last week without my support by a vote of 23 to 15 and is now with the Senate. There are far too many constitutional questions about whether it is legal to contract state debt. However, the underlying issue of borrowing a billion dollars today, while passing on the debt to future generations was far more important. I introduced amendments that would making the bonds subject to Alaska voter approval, which failed. Click here for an informative news story on the issue.
- SB 26: Using YOUR Permanent Fund Dividend. Legislators chose to restructure the Permanent Fund without a vote of the people. I voted against the measure because it does not make assurances that PFDs shall be paid in future years. As I have said since I was first elected: unless the Legislature passes a comprehensive fiscal plan, it is unfair to cut PFDs. Reasonable taxes on big oil corporations would mean the state is collecting a fair share. But a PFD-only plan is a regressive tax that burdens seniors, children and Alaska residents only, regardless of income. I fear SB26 is the beginning of the end of the PFD.
- Operating Budget: The conference committee concluded its business yesterday in reaching an agreement on the operating budget. I will update you with more details after the budget is finalized in the coming days. You can find details of conference committee action here.
- Capital Budget: The House Finance Committee will consider capital budget amendments in the next day as well. The capital budget funds infrastructure and will leverage more than $1.2 billion in federal funds to help keep Alaskans on the job. But I still worry the historically low capital budgets hurt our economy as jobs leave the state. Investing in infrastructure is a public service: It keeps us safe and grows business and creates jobs.
Update on SB 76: Reform of Alcohol Laws
I received many calls and emails on this bill because of a recent amendment that would have reduced the drink limit in breweries, distilleries and wineries by one-third. This major piece of legislation that was a compromise between the alcohol beverage industry, public health experts and public safety was stopped because that amendment created too much conflict.
I was a sponsor of the original bill in 2014 that put distillery businesses on par with breweries. I agree the businesses should maintain a status quo and not be further limited than they already are from size restrictions, entertainment and early closures. Craft businesses help to diversify the local economy and are beginning to grow across the state in size and number. It is a shame that after six years of work, SB 76 was killed because a compromise could not be reached on this issue.
Rep. Kawasaki and HB 236 Cosponsor Rep. Spohnholz, Chair of the House HSS Committee.
Senior Benefits Signed into Law!
Yesterday in Fairbanks, the Governor signed HB 236 to extend the Senior Benefits Payment Program to the year 2024. Thank you again to dozens of senior advocacy groups and legislators who helped move this bill swiftly to give eligible seniors assurance this program would continue.
I hope to be back home soon to celebrate graduations with friends and family and watch Fairbanks blossom into summer. I will be in touch in the coming days, but as always, please feel free to call or email me or contact me through social media any time.
Working Hard for Fairbanks Families,
Representative Scott Kawasaki
Alaska State Representative
City of Fairbanks
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