March 15, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Democrats Offer Savings, Education, and Energy Budget Amendments
Amendments target proven ways to build today’s resources into tomorrow’s opportunity
JUNEAU – Today, House Democrats offered a series of amendments to the state operating budget targeted to saving money, reducing waste, improving schools, and lowering energy costs.
“Our goal all year has been to find ways to build today’s resources into tomorrow’s opportunities,” said House Democratic Leader Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau). “The Permanent Fund, our children’s education and Alaska’s home energy efficiency rebates are all proven ways to do that.”
Representative Mike Doogan (D-Anchorage) began the amendments with an amendment to add $2 billion of surplus into the Alaska Permanent Fund. He then offered amendments to cut around $24 million from the budget.
“The Permanent Fund is true savings. This is a chance for Alaska to pay it forward,” said Rep. Doogan. “There are always reasons not to save money. There are big plans, medium plans and small plans, and they all add up. We ought to be saving part of it because, frankly, we’ll need it.”
Representative Pete Petersen (D-Anchorage) offered an amendment to ensure inflation does not force more cuts to Alaska’s schools. His amendment would add $46 million dollars, the amount necessary to offset inflation from last year, to the amount distributed to Alaska’s schools.
“We have the opportunity today to show young Alaskans that we value their future, that we are willing to do our part to provide the educational opportunities they need to succeed in school and prepare themselves for the future,” said Rep. Petersen. “Now is not the time to lose the momentum many districts have by forcing them to lay off teachers and make cuts in the classroom.”
“Alaska is in an enviable financial position, especially compared to other states,” said Representative Bob Miller (D-Fairbanks). “Education is proven to help our economy, and if we want to develop a generation of job-creators, we need to provide our schools the resources, tools and hope they need.”
Representative Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) offered an amendment to help the state’s successful pilot preschool program expand to more districts across the state. The state started the voluntary program in six districts three years ago, and it has been popular with parents and school districts because of its effectiveness in helping children prepare for entering kindergarten.
“Preschool has proven to lead to more success in school, better paying jobs and lower incarceration rates later on,” said Rep. Kawasaki. “This pilot pre-K program is ready for prime-time, and it’s time we move in that direction.”
“Recently the courts, the [Parnell] administration, school districts and plaintiffs agreed in the Moore case settlement that Pre-K is one of the things we can do to help improve districts,” said Rep. Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage). “If a preschool education is an important tool to student success in failing school districts, then is it not just as important for students in struggling districts or struggling students in any district?”
Representative Kawasaki offered an amendment to allow more Alaskans to take advantage of the popular home energy rebate program.
“In Fairbanks and around the state, high energy costs are crippling Alaskans and local economies,” said Rep. Kawasaki. “This amendment is about putting money in the pockets of homeowners today. The need is there. The efficiency rebates are a success. We should help these homeowners take advantage of them.”
“Heating homes is difficult in every community in Alaska,” said Representative Sharon Cissna (D-Anchorage). “The average homeowner in this program saves $1297 a year in lower energy costs. Those dollars go throughout the community, and homeowners are excited to teach their neighbors how to make those savings happen for them.”