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April 19, 2019
The Budget Passes the House and the Children’s Caucus Meets
The legislative session is hitting its high gear as the debate over the state budget moves from the House to the Senate. I cast a yes vote for the budget that came out of the House, but I am aware it’s not perfect. However, it is a good budget. It is the responsible alternative to the unworkable budget proposal put forward by Governor Dunleavy. Now, the next move belongs to the State Senate.
Senate Finance Committee Co-Chair Sen. Bert Stedman has been quoted as saying the Senate will put forward a smaller budget. I hope the Senate keeps the full education funding included in the House’s responsible budget. I am confident my colleagues in the Senate will see the unfairness of trying to balance the budget by taking money out of every classroom in Alaska.
We should start to get some clarity about the Senate version of the budget after the Easter holiday when budget amendments are considered in the Senate Finance Committee. I have so far been impressed with the working relationship between the House and Senate, which I hope results in an acceptable budget that we can send to the Governor for his signature.
Unacceptable Cuts to Senior Benefits
Rarely have I been more upset in politics than when I heard about the decision by the Dunleavy administration to arbitrarily cut Senior Benefit payments to thousands of elders across Alaska. 4,700 seniors who receive a benefit of $76 per month are slated to lose their benefits in May and June. The administration claims they don’t have the money to continue these modest monetary payments, but I refuse to believe the governor couldn’t find the money somewhere in state government to keep paying Senior Benefit payments. I also wonder why the administration did not ask for a supplemental budget appropriation. I signed a letter last week that was sent to the Governor expressing my strong disappointment in his actions because “cutting this program suddenly with two weeks' notice is immoral and reflects poorly on our priorities as a state.” Eliminating these Senior Benefit payments pulls the rug out from under many of the most vulnerable Alaskans. It is an irresponsible move and should be immediately reversed.
(Announcement regarding the suspension of Senior Benefit payments on the Alaska Division of Public Assistance website.)
First Meeting of the Alaska Children’s Caucus
On Tuesday, we held the inaugural meeting of the Alaska Children’s Caucus. I have been working with Representative Sara Rasmussen (R-Anchorage) on restarting the Children’s Caucus to focus on protecting children and promoting healthy families.
Both the House and Senate were represented at Tuesday’s meeting, and it was great to see so many freshmen legislators clear their busy schedules to attend. I want to especially thank Gavel Alaska for being there to cover the inaugural meeting of the Alaska Children’s Caucus. Our next meeting will be held on May 7th.
(Alaska Children's Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Sara Rasmussen & Chris Tuck at the inaugural meeting on Tuesday, April 16, 2019)
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