May 21, 2017
Legislature Adjourned on Sunday, May 12 at 1:55AM
Big thanks to my staff this year for all their great work. Left to right: Jake Gerrish, William Jodwalis and Mercedes Colbert. You’ll see them in Fairbanks!
The Legislative Session wrapped up and I am finally home for the summer! I am proud of the work the Alaska House Majority Coalition accomplished for the people of Alaska. We worked with the House Minority and the Senate to pass a budget that increases resources for public safety and education. I took a strong stand for the people of Alaska and voted against a billion-dollar bonding scheme to pay out oil tax credits. I also kept my word to fight for a fair fiscal plan and voted against tampering with the Permanent Fund Dividend. I represent the people of Fairbanks, not special interests. I will not vote to jeopardize the PFD while oil companies continue to reap record profits.
Below is a summary of the budgets passed by the legislature, which go into effect July 1, 2018. I will follow up with another E-News about an update on noteworthy bills passed and sent to the Governor to approve.
Expect a Baseline Budget for Next Year
While this year the legislature agreed to reverse several harmful cuts from prior legislatures, the state budget is down $2 billion since 2015 in Unrestricted General Funds alone. After years of budget cuts, Alaskans voiced too much had been cut from important programs that invest in our future leaders and private sector jobs, including tourism, construction and much more.
Even so, not all harmful cuts have been restored as the state still faces a huge budget deficit. This budget was the result of weeks of compromise between House and Senate leaders on all sides.
Education from Pre-K to University: Increasing investment in our future leaders
· The Alaska House Majority Coalition fought to increase per-student spending by $20 million next year and $30 million the following year—paid for in advance, so school districts can start planning now without the chaos of spring layoff notices for teachers.
· Pre-Kindergarten grants were funded at $6 million over two years. This is a one-third increase and adds certainty for important early education programs that I have fought for year after year.
· Alaska Performance Scholarships were flat-funded at $11.75 million.
· University of Alaska will see $10 million increase from last year to avoid some cuts to valuable classes.
Permanent Fund Dividends
Investing in Public Safety: Reversing Harmful Cuts from Prior Leaders
- The Alaska House Majority Coalition successfully increased public safety investment by $34 million. This will help pay for more prosecutors to reduce the backlog of pending criminal cases caused by years of budget cuts by previous leaders. We also added funding for four more Guardians ad Litem to support foster kids.
- State Troopers – Increased funding for more troopers with higher visibility.
- Village Public Safety Officers – I fought to include an increase of $500,000 for VPSOs who serve and protect rural areas of the state.
- In the Capital Budget, I added $15,000 for the Fairbanks Volunteers in Policing Program so neighbors can work with the City of Fairbanks to prevent crime in their neighborhood.
- Funds for Enhanced 911 Program to improve response times to emergencies in urban/rural Alaska.
The bi-partisan members of the Alaska House Majority Coalition include Republicans, Democrats and Independents from diverse communities across all of Alaska.
Health and Social Services
- Increased funding by $573,000 for the Pioneer Homes and increased the Pioneer Homes ability to receive Federal Funding by another $550,000.
- Increased Alaska Psychiatric Institute funding by $75,300 to address the nursing shortage.
Other Capital Budget Highlights
- $4 million for the Voluntary Heating Device Chance Out Program so that Fairbanksans can breathe clean air and stay warm in the winter.
- $20 million to help address the $2 billion deferred maintenance backlog to keep up with state investment in infrastructure. Another $2 million was added for University deferred maintenance.
- Funding for Senior Citizens Housing, Marine Highway, Code Blue Project, Tourism marketing, Village Safe Water and Wastewater Projects, and more.
My office will be open during the summer to aid you on any state issues. Please contact me at 907.456.7423 to schedule an appointment. If you’re in the area, stop by for a cup of coffee to chat anytime! My office is located at 1292 Sadler Way #308 in the Alaska USA Building near Home Depot.
Working Hard for Fairbanks Families,
Representative Scott Kawasaki
Alaska State Representative
City of Fairbanks
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