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Amendments to provide opportunities and save money long into the future

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 13, 2014 

JUNEAU – Today, Alaska House Democratic legislators offered a series of amendments to the state operating budget to improve public education, promote workforce development, and trim wasteful spending.

“Our focus is always on jobs and education,” said House Democratic Leader Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage). “These amendments target proven, cost-effective ways to improve public education at all levels and to help Alaskans get good jobs.”

“Making these investments now can provide opportunities and save the state money long into the future,” said House Democratic Whip Max Gruenberg (D-Anchorage).

The caucus’ first amendment would have added $101 million for school districts to offset recent budget cuts and reverse statewide cuts to teachers and other staff.

“We would rather have public education funding in the base student allocation so schools can count on it year after year, but until that happens, we need to try to get it into the budget any way we can,” said Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage). “It’s time to reverse the teacher and staff cuts, and stop next year’s. Cutting over 600 educators since 2011 has been bad enough.”

The next amendment would have added $2 million to support the successful voluntary public preschool program which began as a pilot program five years ago and has families and school districts lined up to participate.

“The results are in, and pre-K works,” said Representative Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage). “If we want to improve student performance, preschool is the proven answer.”

The third amendment the caucus introduced would have restored the appropriation for the Alaska Youth First program in the Department of Labor to what the governor had originally requested before the House Finance Committee cut it. The program administers career readiness counselors in and out of schools to help young Alaskans get good jobs and prepare for better ones. 

“The Alaska Youth First program helps young Alaskans, both inside the school system and outside it, to match their skills and goals with the jobs that are right for them,” said Representative Sam Kito III (D-Juneau). “Having the right career advice and support can make all the difference in getting on a positive career track for young people struggling to enter the workforce.”

The caucus’ fourth amendment would have restored money requested by the University of Alaska to continue popular courses and prevent tuition increases or keep them at a minimum. That money was cut in the governor’s budget.

“The University is an economic driver and offers high performance programs with proven track records for training Alaskans to get jobs as nurses, engineers and other high demand jobs,” said Representative David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks). “We need to grow the University, not cut it, if we want to prepare the next generations to take the reins of tomorrow from us.”

In addition to the above amendments, the caucus ran amendments to increase caregiver support and to restore additional money proposed by the governor for behavioral health grants.

Members of the caucus also ran two amendments to cut wasteful spending from the budget including amendments to reduce funding for the Alaska Aerospace Corporation and to remove salary increases for executives of the recently-created Alaska Gasline Development Corporation who are already making over $175,000 a year.

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