Start of Session E-Newsletter
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are a month into the second session of the 30th Alaska Legislature, and so far the biggest issue before us is our looming budget deficit. With the price of oil around $65 per barrel, we are nowhere near being able to rely on oil revenue for funding the state services on which Alaskans have come to depend.
Over the past several years, we have paid for most of our state budget with savings that were accumulated during the days when we had $100 plus prices for a barrel of oil. With the oil price declines we have seen recently, we are generating $1.2 billion in oil royalties and taxes. That may seem like a lot of money, but that $1.2 billion is not even enough to pay for our K-12 education system, let alone the other constitutional and statutory obligations we have in order to provide services to the Alaskan public.
There is a significant amount of work to do to secure a stable economic future for Alaska. In the last four years, we have spent almost all of the money we had saved in our Constitutional Budget Reserve fund (our main state savings account), which leaves us with approximately $10 billion in the Permanent Fund’s Earnings Reserve account, an account that contains the realized earnings from our Permanent Fund investments. The Earnings Reserve Account is not technically a savings account, although money from that account can be spent by the Legislature as long as we keep the core balance of the Permanent Fund above what has been deposited into the fund. Rhetoric from Senate leadership so far this session has been about how increasing oil prices and budget cutting can balance the budget, but the numbers they are talking about just do not work. Without a comprehensive fiscal plan, we will continue on this same dangerous course until we have no savings left to fill the gap, which by some predictions could happen in as little as two years.
Along with House Majority Coalition, I remain committed to taking the necessary steps to solve this crisis and to putting a solution in place that will promote long-term sustainability and prosperity for all Alaskans.
Juneau Delegation Legislative Town Hall, January 11, 2018
Legislative Term Limits (House Joint Resolution 27)
In the short period of time I have served in the Legislature, I have come to find that we could really use a regular input of fresh ideas and energy. Thinking about how to achieve that end, I have introduced House Joint Resolution 27 that limits the length of continuous time that a Senator or Representative can serve in one body of the legislature to eight years (two consecutive Senate terms, or four consecutive House terms). Limiting the length of continuous service will allow more Alaskans the opportunity to serve the Alaskan public in the state legislature. This change does not prohibit someone from running for eight years in one body, followed by eight years in the other body. The bill also allows for a sitting Senator or Representative to take a two-year break from legislative service, and then run again for the same legislative body. Requiring breaks in service will also serve to promote the regular infusion of fresh perspectives and ideas into the legislative process.
It was heartening to find as I did research for this resolution, that there are 15 other states that have implemented legislative term limits, and that our own state has voted overwhelmingly on two occasions to institute congressional term limits, which unfortunately was nullified by Supreme Court action. Our state currently limits the term of our Governor. HJR 27 is currently in House State Affairs Committee, and is scheduled for a hearing on Thursday, February 22nd. Please express your support for the bill by calling 907-465-3732 and/or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org!
Alaska Public Offices Commission (House Bill 91)
Another piece of public interest legislation that I am working on is House Bill 91. HB 91 provides the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) with the ability to generate revenue to help the agency become less dependent on state general fund dollars, which due to the state’s fiscal situation, are in short supply. HB 91 establishes new fees and adjusts exiting fees that APOC charges for lobbyist registration and candidate filings. APOC was established in 1976 by a vote of the people to encourage the public’s confidence in their elected and appointed officials by administering Alaska’s public disclosure statutes and publishing financial information regarding lobbying activities and election campaigns. APOC has a very active role in Alaska politics, and is in need of funding stabilization in order to provide accurate and efficient services to the Alaskan public.
(From left to right: Sorcha Hazelton, Crystal Koeneman, myself, Caitlyn Ellis, and Edric Carrillo)
Crystal Koeneman – I am very fortunate to have Crystal working in my office as my Chief of Staff and Legislative Council Committee Aide. She is a seasoned veteran of the legislature with over 10 years of experience in our state government, both for the legislature and the executive branch. Born in Alaska and raised in Juneau, Crystal lives in district with her husband and two young boys.
Caitlyn Ellis – Caitlyn is my Labor and Commerce Committee Aide. She joined our office the past December. Caitlyn was born and raised in Utah and has spent the last four summers working in Juneau as a tour bus driver. Caitlyn has worked in the Capitol during the last few sessions, including work supporting the Labor and Commerce Committee last year. She is a welcome addition to our team, and has proven her worth already, keeping our very busy committee moving along like clockwork.
Sorcha Hazelton – Sorcha is a third generation Juneau resident, who is working in her third Legislative session. She started as an intern, and as a Legislative Aide in the Senate for the last two years. Sorcha also worked as an intern in the U.S. Senate. She is serving as my Health & Social Services Committee Aide. She serves on the board for the Juneau chapter of the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls. She is a huge fan of period dramas and creme de la earl grey tea.
Edric Carrillo – Edric joined the office in September and handles most of our constituent inquiries. Edric was born and raised in Juneau and served as a page for the House of Representatives for the last two years. He serves on the Filipino Community Inc. Board of Directors, the City and Borough of Juneau Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, and the Youth Activity Services Board. Edric is pursuing his interest in government and public service, and is enjoying his work with District 33 constituents!
As we head in to the rest of the 2018 legislative session, my staff and I look forward to hearing from you on any issue of importance to you. Please contact my office with any comments, questions, or information you would like us to have as we work for District 33, Southeast Alaska, and our state.