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Senator Lisa Murkowski
Senator Dan Sullivan
Congressman Don Young
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I am back at the Capitol to serve as your representative in the 31st Alaska Legislature. Things are off to an unusual start this year because no single legislator has yet been able to muster up the minimum 21 votes required to elect a Speaker of the House. Until this happens, many functions of the House, such as the introduction of bills and committee assignments, cannot take place.
At the same time, we are not expecting to see Governor Dunleavy’s proposed budget until February 13, although a placeholder document was submitted to meet the constitutionally mandated budget deadline of December 15.
We have heard there will be cuts of around $1.6 billion, but it is not clear exactly where those cuts will come from. Years of severe budget reductions have left per capita spending below pre-pipeline days in the 1970s, and I am concerned that further cuts will extend or worsen Alaska’s economic recession as basic state functions such as snow plowing, permitting, law enforcement, and fisheries management are increasingly neglected.
A recent office visit by young education advocates bearing a gift of grapes. Their note said, “We are Grapeful for our Schools.”
I am particularly concerned about the future of public education, especially in light of the Governor’s recent surprise attempt to use the Supplemental Budget to revoke $20 million of previously allocated school funding from districts in the middle of the school year.
Alaska has already lost more than 500 teachers and support staff in recent years. The Anchorage School District alone would lose an extra $6 million, threatening the jobs of at least 25 additional teachers and contributing to even larger class sizes.
It will require the passage of legislation to revoke funding in this way, and I am hopeful that my colleagues in the House and the Senate will not allow public schools to be blindsided by these additional hardships.
Regardless of all the uncertainty we are facing, my office is up and running and I am here for you if you need assistance with any state issues, or if you would just like to share your thoughts. Call my office at 269-0190, send me an email, or contact me through my new Official Legislative Facebook page any time!
As always, please call or email with any thoughts, ideas, or concerns.