Budget prioritizes public safety and education, HB205 now heads to the Senate

JUNEAU – The Alaska House of Representatives this evening passed a streamlined operating budget that prioritizes public safety, education, and the essential services that underpin our economy and communities.

Lawmakers approved the budget 23-to-16, and House Bill 205 now heads to the Senate for consideration. This is the fastest that an operating budget has ever passed the House – only 43 days have passed since the beginning of this year’s legislative session – something that was possible due to collaboration with members of the House Minority.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • The budget that passed the House approves $4.5 billion in unrestricted general fund spending, which largely reflects the governor’s request for $4.4 billion in spending.
  • Since Fiscal Year 2013, UGF spending has been reduced by $3.5 billion. Considering the supplemental budget, this year’s operating budget approves spending $35 million less than last year.
  • As the House Majority advocated last year, the governor this year agreed to restore $128.3 million for Medicaid, $7.5 million for Adult Public Assistance, and $5 million for Pioneer Homes.
  • Coastal Communities are in crisis because of systemic failures of the Alaska Marine Highway System. The House’s budget invests $11 million in unrestricted general funds to make sure people will be able access healthcare, food and supplies, and the outside world. This proposal also allows AMHS to receive $7.4 million in ticket sales.
  • Every student deserves a chance to succeed, which is why our budget makes a targeted $10.6 million investment that will ensure students with special needs receive adequate instruction.
  • Alaskans deserve to feel safe in their hometown, whether a large city or a rural village. That’s why our budget funds:
    • $7.6 million to address Alaska’s growing prison population, and for mental health and rehab services that will help people succeed when they get out of jail;
    • $6.3 million to hire 36 Alaska State Troopers;
    • $1.7 million was added to help increase the court system’s productivity;
    • $1.6 million for criminal prosecutors;
    • $1 million so evidence is processed expediently, allowing victims to receive timely justice;
    • $1 million to help grow the Village Public Safety Officer program;
  • The Ocean Rangers Program plays a vital role in making sure our waters and fisheries are protected from pollution. The House’s budget restores funding for this vital program.
  • Alaska’s dairy industry is at risk of collapsing due to the administration’s attempt to defund the regulator who ensures milk is healthy and safe before it goes onto shelves. The House added $180,000 to make sure this industry and Alaska’s food security is protected.
  • $1 million was added to protect Alaska Public Radio from making drastic service reductions that would harm rural communities.
  • The question of this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend will be answered in a future appropriations bill.

“I want to thank the House Finance Committee and all of my colleagues in the House for working hard to pass the operating budget in record time,” said Rep. Neal Foster (D-Nome), co-chair of the House Finance Committee. “I’m proud of the tough choices and fiscal restraint that was demonstrated in the process of crafting this budget, and our values are reflected in our prioritization of public safety, education, and the health and well-being of Alaskans.”

“In record time, the House has passed an operating budget that reduces state spending and continues to support education, public safety and other essential services,” added Rep. Jennifer Johnston (R-Anchorage), co-chair of the House Finance Committee. “This budget is about $35 million less than the budget passed last year, considering supplemental spending. With the recent market instability and reductions in oil prices, there are many tough choices still to be made. However, this is a huge step in the right direction. I remain committed to working on structural changes that will lead to more permanent solutions.”

###

CONTACT
Austin Baird
Communications Director
Alaska House Majority
(907) 465-6791
Austin.Baird@akleg.gov