| April 17, 2017
Session Overtime Begins
Dear friends and neighbors,
As of Sunday, April 16th we have passed through the statutory end of session, and we are now officially into overtime. Our state budget has passed the House and the Senate, but we have not yet started the conference committee process. There is still work to do on our fiscal plan, and this week we took a major step towards sustainability. With the passage of House Bill 111 and House Bill 115, and passage of the House amendments to Senate Bill 26, we have all of the pieces out on the table to get us much closer to a comprehensive fiscal plan – you can read this for more information.
Sustainability – Alaska’s Fiscal plan
Our sustainable solution is a four-pillar plan that balances the impact across all Alaskans. This plan will bring our state to within $400-500 million of balancing our budget. This is much better than the current $3 billion revenue shortfall. I say revenue shortfall because the situation we are in is a result of declining revenues, and not excessive spending as some are trying to insist.
This fiscal plan puts us on the path towards fiscal stability and sustainability. With all of the pieces of the fiscal plan on the table, the next step will be negotiating with the Senate to put all of the pieces into place.
We need to protect public education and Alaska’s seniors
We have seen that the Senate has proposed significant and dangerous cuts to public education and the Pioneer Homes in addition other cuts. Throwing reductions into the budget at the last minute—without the ability to fully explore the consequences of such cuts—is a clear path to crippling our economy. Our current fiscal situation is not due to uncontrolled spending, our situation is due to a precipitous drop in oil prices that is not expected to turn around appreciably in the near-term.
Articles discussing the Senate’s proposed reductions can be found here and here. Providing for the education of Alaska’s children is our primary responsibility, and to me is equivalent to paying the mortgage on a house. Education of our children is an investment in our future.
In addition, the Senate also recently proposed a 10% cut (about $6.5 million) to Alaska’s Pioneer Homes (read more here). I appreciate everyone who called or wrote to me and the rest of my colleagues in the legislature. Alaska’s Pioneer Homes do wonderful work in communities around our state, and I am committed to ensuring they have the support necessary to continue that work. We are certainly in a challenging time, but we do need to support our seniors and, when we are able, begin preparing for the “silver tsunami” of aging Alaskans who have a desire to age in place or receive care in community close to family.
Personal and Sponsored Legislation
In addition to the fiscal plan there are other day-to-day responsibilities of legislating for our state. To that end, I have several pieces of legislation that my office has been working on this session. Three of the bills are occupational licensing sunset extensions, two are bills that my Labor and Commerce Committee is working on for the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, and one is a personal bill establishing Benefit Corporations in Alaska.
Thank you to everyone who has visited, called, or emailed – I appreciate hearing from each of you. Please be in touch if you have questions or comments.