GOP Harms Public Education and Seniors, Holds Oil Industry Harmless, Refuses Hundreds of Millions in Savings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 27, 2015

JUNEAU – Today, the Alaska Legislature passed the most irresponsible budget in the history of Alaska.  The FY 2016 budget results in major public education cuts, eliminates nearly all early learning opportunities, jeopardizes the future of a natural gas pipeline, and makes it more difficult for thousands of Alaskans to get affordable healthcare. 

“The people of Alaska and our Coalition have been very clear all session about the importance of a lasting commitment to public education,” said Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition Leader Representative Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage).  “It’s unacceptable to use a fiscal crisis as an excuse to jeopardize academic opportunities for our children through this fake budget.”

The budget that was passed along caucus lines does not include provisions for Medicaid expansion and reform, which is a priority of Governor Walker and the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition.  By refusing to accept Medicaid expansion, Alaska is losing $400,000 a day.  Inaction on this proposal has already cost Alaska $190 million and further inaction will cost the state nearly $600 million over the next six years.

“The Medicaid expansion and reform issue has been studied, discussed, and debated for two years,” said House Finance Committee member Representative David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks).  “This irresponsible budget represents a lost opportunity to inject billions in the state economy, save money, and ensure many of the most vulnerable Alaskans get life-saving healthcare.”

In an unprecedented move, the Majority organizations in the House and Senate passed a budget that includes spending $3.2 billion more than the Legislature has in revenue.  Throughout the budget process, the House and Senate Majorities repeatedly refused to embrace money saving proposals put forward by the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition and the Alaska Senate Democrats.  The Majorities also rejected every attempt to fix the flawed oil tax system that gives oil companies $640 million more in oil tax credits than the state earns from production taxes.

“I can’t support harming educational opportunities and continuing avoidable child neglect while gifting oil companies with hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage), who represented the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition on the operating budget conference committee.  Rep. Gara also sponsored legislation to close loopholes in our oil tax law that creates negative revenue for Alaska.

Among the most disturbing aspects of the approved FY 2016 operating budget is a provision added by the Conference Committee that strips $157 million from the Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline project, which Governor Walker and the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition believe is a needed backup project for the proposed AK-LNG pipeline to move Alaska’s valuable natural gas from the North Slope to market.  

“Our current fiscal crisis shows the need for a natural gas pipeline to further diversify our revenue stream,” said House Finance Committee member Representative Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks).  “Our Coalition supports AK-LNG but there are no assurances our oil industry partners will actually go through with the project.  The Majority has essentially killed our only backup plan thus leaving the fiscal future of our state in further jeopardy just as we are trying to weather the most significant fiscal crisis in Alaska’s history.”

The first session of the 29th Alaska Legislature was scheduled to close on April 19, but was extended due to unfinished action on the operating and capital budgets, Medicaid expansion and reform, the Interior Energy Project, and other key pieces of legislation. 

“The lawmakers in the Majority have abdicated their responsibility to pass a balanced budget,” said Rep. Chris Tuck.  “Rather than negotiate a responsible deal that fully funds the budget, the Majority chose to throw up their hands, give up, and take a vacation instead of staying at work.”

It’s anticipated that Governor Walker will veto the budget and issue a call for a special session to start immediately.

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