Dear Friends and Neighbors,
What a week it has been. On day 31 of the 31st legislature we elected Rep. Bryce Edgmon as Speaker of the House. This has been an unusual start to a session and I know at times frustrating to watch. With the budget coming out this week I think you can see why the stakes are so high this session. What hasn’t been seen is the number of conversations that have taken place about the budget and how to move our state forward. There have been many productive conversations and I hope that will allow us to work quickly going forward. With 60 legislators representing the diversity of Alaskans this can be a challenge. Ultimately compromise is necessary to keep from gridlock. The full Majority organization is now working to fill committee assignments and begin regular hearings. You can follow committee hearings here: http://w3.akleg.gov/index.php#tab2. More on this next week as things finalize.
The big news, of course, this week was the draft budget released from Governor Dunleavy. To say it hit like a ton of bricks is putting it lightly. That’s why I say this budget proposal broke Alaskans’ hearts. Some things once considered off limits like programs that help needy Seniors or Alaskans with disabilities are slated for cuts. I will oppose efforts to eliminate the safety net that our neighbors rely on for meeting basic needs.
Beyond that, the massive cuts proposed will cripple our economy at a time when we are just turning the corner from a recession. Whether we like it or not, government spending is directly linked to our economy and as a result massive cuts to state government means massive hits to the economy. The cuts to K-12 education would be devastating and lead to class sizes ballooning to unsustainable levels and the proposed cut to the University of Alaska would mean the Anchorage campus would have to close. You can find budget documents here: https://www.omb.alaska.gov//
Some of the proposed cuts include:
Guess what doesn’t get cut, and instead gets increased? The Governor’s salary; the proposed budget includes an increase of over 7% for the Governor’s salary. That still won’t be the biggest salary in state government, but that strikes me as wrong when essential services are on the chopping block.
These cuts won’t build the Alaska we all want. Since this budget has been released I’ve received multiple emails from Alaskans saying that for the first time they are considering leaving the state. They want a good education for their child and a safe neighborhood. They want to see a bright future and with this budget proposal they are feeling let down and hopeless. If you’re feeling that way too please don’t give up hope now! Your voice is so important and I will do everything I can to keep you updated, send you information about how to testify, and provide information you need. Please let us know how we can help you! I’m confident working together we can continue to find ways to make government work better, but that doesn’t include destroying pubic education, the University of Alaska, or Medicaid.
Upcoming Constituent and Community Council Meetings
Thursday, February 21st - Airport Heights Community Council from 7-9 pm at Airport Heights Elementary
Saturday, February 23rd – Morning Coffee with Senator Begich and Representative Tarr from 9:00 -10:00 am at the Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Church (2824 E 18th Ave.). Please come have a cup of coffee with us!
Saturday, February 23rd – Anchorage Caucus may be moved to March 2nd following the passing of Lt. Governor Jack Coghill. He is an iconic figure in Alaska history and will be remembered forever for his role in crafting our state constitution. Many legislators want to attend the memorial services and an alternative is being considered. Please stay tuned for more information.
Sunday, March 10th- Constituent meeting with Senator Begich and Representative Tarr from 12:30-2:30 pm at the Mountain View Library. This will be our mid-session constituent meeting. We’ll start with lunch and then take questions. We also plan to spend time on the issue of income inequality and living wages. More on that soon!
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions, concerns, or ideas on legislation we could be introducing! I love hearing from you!
All my best,
P.S. Hope to see you on the 23rd or the 10th!