The End is Near... We Passed a Budget
Dear Friends, Neighbors, and fellow Fairbanksans:
The end is near! The Legislature is still in special session, but we're getting a bit closer to a resolution. I have some good news to share with you today.
First, in good news for Fairbanks, the conference committee on the budget added $35 million back in for the University system. This is still a large cut from last year, but I'm glad that we avoided the enormous $50 million cut that was originally proposed. This amount is the what the Governor proposed early in the session and I’m glad we were able to fulfill that proposal. UAF is a vital component of our community, and this will help save jobs and make sure UAF remains a player on the world stage.
Today the capital and operating budgets passed the Legislature. There were enough votes from House members (including myself) to make a withdrawal from the Constitutional Budget Reserve in order to pay for the budget. Passing the budget today means we've avoided sending thousands of pink slips to state employees and avoided layoffs on July 1. I hope that this can be the last year we have to withdraw from our savings, which means we need to act on some of the revenue components in the Governor's special session call. I firmly believe we need to pass a comprehensive fiscal plan this year with both cuts and revenue components, and this week we will be working on other parts of the plan, although I wish the work would have been done earlier in the session.
One of my biggest priorities for the rest of the special session is fixing the oil tax credit bill. We can’t expect citizens to give money to the state in the form of taxes or taking a smaller dividend and then just hand it over to the oil companies. The version of the oil tax credit bill the House passed included abipartisan amendment that saves the state money, but the Senate made changes that significantly reduce those savings. I hope to be able to vote for a better version of the bill soon.
The conference committee also added the $50 Base Student Allocation increase for public schools back into the budget. Many Alaskans were shocked a few weeks ago when the increase was removed suddenly without public input, but fortunately it was added back in and was a part of the budget we passed today.
Two other bills passed the legislature today – HB 27 and HB 200. Both of these bills seek to improve aspects of the state's foster care and adoption systems.
I'll keep you posted with any more updates on the special session. As always, please feel free to contact me anytime with questions or concerns.
As always, please feel free to call or email me with any questions, concerns, or ideas.