Compromise Restores Public Education Funds, Protects Children, Seniors, and Alaska Values
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 11, 2015
ANCHORAGE – The Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition compromise with the Majority leadership in the House and Senate today enabled the Alaska Legislature to pass an operating budget for Fiscal Year 2016 that prevents a government shutdown at the end of the month.
“The negotiating process was difficult but absolutely necessary to reach consensus on a budget that eliminates the specter of a government shutdown,” said Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition Leader Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage). “By standing united behind our priorities, our Coalition was able to protect public education and seniors, restore pre-kindergarten funding, and ensure we have a healthy economy.”
The top priority of the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition is to protect the state’s public education system, and the negotiated budget compromise reflects that priority. The approved budget includes the addition of $16.5 million to the Base Student Allocation, which was previously cut from the proposed budget. The compromise also added back $5 million for the University of Alaska and reinstated funding for pre-kindergarten to increase academic opportunities.
“We tried to achieve budget savings but just could not garner enough support,” said House Finance Committee member Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks). “We proposed curtailing the spending of $600 million more in oil company tax credits than the law requires. We also tried to achieve $300 million in savings by taking advantage of Medicaid expansion and reform. We protected children and seniors, but ultimately, most of our major cuts were rejected by Republican leadership.”
The negotiated budget compromise also protects vital state services by restoring $2.8 million in cuts from the Senior Benefits Program, which helps low income seniors. The compromise also honors agreed to wage increases for thousands of state workers while still allowing flexibility for the state to renegotiate contracts in times of high or low oil prices.
“I am so proud of the members of our Coalition. We stood together and united around issues important to Alaskans,” said Rep. Tuck. “We faced enormous pressure to sacrifice our priorities this session. We did not buckle under that pressure. We expect a more productive working relationship with the Majority in the interim and next session.”
House Bill 2001 was approved by a vote of 14 to 5 in the Senate and 32 to 7 in the House.