NEWS: Democrats Introduce Permanent Committee to Review State Spending & Revenue

Alaska state and flag

January 19, 2016

JUNEAU – Today, Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks), Rep. Sam Kito (D-Juneau), and Rep. Matt Claman (D-Anchorage) introduced HCR 16 to establish the House Standing Committee on Ways & Means to consider methods to control state spending, identify ways to make government programs more efficient, and review measures that raise state revenue.

The Alaska Legislature created a House Special Committee on Ways & Means that terminated at the end of each Legislature from 2003-2008. In 2011, the House also established a Special Committee on Fiscal Policy in the 27th Legislature with the understanding that oil production was falling and the state needed to diversify sources of revenue.

“One of our most important roles as state legislators is to consider responsible state spending and reliable funding mechanisms for vital state services,” said Rep. Kawasaki.  “The Legislature should have additional eyes on bills that improve efficiency or raise revenues. It will also allow for the public to better weigh in on these crucial measures.”

A permanent House Ways & Means Committee, which is supported by Commonwealth North, would ensure there is a consistent review process for revenue sources and state spending not only during the current crisis, but also during times of prosperity and growth to help prevent or ease future crises.

“Commonwealth North is consistently looking for Alaskan solutions to Alaska’s problems and the organization’s support for this concept is just that,” said Rep. Claman.  “This committee will ensure we exercise fiscal restraint in times of prosperity and when times are tough.”

The House Ways and Means Committee would focus on the revenue side of the Legislature’s budget decision-making to complement the duties of the House Finance Committee, which also considers proposed legislation that may create additional state spending.

“With the decline in revenue from oil, we will need to consider a balance of revenue sources for our state,” said Rep. Sam Kito.  “This responsibility will require the focus and attention provided by a standing committee.”

The creation of a new standing committee would not carry a fiscal note, such as when the Health, Education and Social Services Committees in both chambers were split into two committees in 2008.

At the federal level, the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee is the oldest committee in Congress. At least 8 state legislatures similar to Alaska have permanent Ways & Means committees that consider revenue measures separately from another committee that addresses appropriations and budgeting. The House traditionally reviews the budget process before the Senate.

For more information, contact Rep. Scott Kawasaki at (866) 465-3466.



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