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June 28, 2017
Legislative Budget and Special Session Update
In a major step forward, the Legislature has passed a compromise operating budget with a bipartisan vote of 31 to 8 in the Alaska House. This budget is not ideal, but it is necessary to prevent a government shutdown on July 1 which would have brought a halt to Alaskans’ ability to provide for their families at the most crucial time of year for many economic activities.
The compromise budget funds day-to-day government agency operations for next year’s budget at just under $3.7 billion in unrestricted general funds, which is a reduction of $185.9 million from the prior budget. This budget funds the 2017 Permanent Fund Dividend at $1,100 per eligible Alaska resident, which was $100 higher than the Senate version of the bill.
In the House we held strong for children and seniors and reversed the Senate’s $69 million cuts to K-12 education and pupil transportation. We preserved funding for early education and restored cuts that had been made to the Pioneer Homes.
This compromise is a great win for our children, seniors, and Alaska’s future, as well as the teachers and educators who can go back to work this fall.
However, these difficult cuts follow years of severe budget reductions that have left per capita expenses below pre-pipeline days in the 1970s, and yet still leave us far short of a sustainable budget.
While I am glad that all parties were able to come together in time to avoid a shutdown of crucial state services, the job of the legislature is not done. A comprehensive fiscal plan this year would mean we can have a responsible, sustainable budget next year without draining savings and jeopardizing spending the permanent fund dividend in an irresponsible way.
The House Majority Coalition passed a plan that would balance the budget within three years through the elimination of oil tax subsidies, major budget reductions, and broad based revenue measures. So far the Senate has focused on spending the earnings of the Permanent Fund, which is not fair to regular Alaskans and does not fix the problem.
Under the special session agenda the legislature will next consider HB 111, which is a major part of a comprehensive fiscal plan and would help our budget by eliminating hundreds of millions of dollars in cash subsidies to oil companies. This is a great step forward, but it is only one part of the complete plan that is essential to our economic survival.
As the Second Special Session continues, I hope you will continue to reach out to Representatives, Senators, and the Governor with your support for passage of a complete fiscal plan.
I’m here for you, so please keep in touch on matters important to you and your family!
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