Saving the Marine Highway
Dear Neighbor,
Great news: Thanks to Representative Stutes and other coastal legislators, the current draft of the operating budget has $11 million in additional Marine Highway funding to restore ferry service. Many communities have run out of food, diapers, and other essentials in stores. Lack of ferry service puts fishermen and homebuilders at risk of not receiving materials they need for their livelihoods. I appreciate the leadership of Rep. Stutes and other coastal legislators to restore Marine Highway funding, and hope that the operating budget that comes to the House floor has sufficient funding to restore Marine Highway operations. Here are other updates:
Anchorage Caucus:
Over the weekend, legislators met in Anchorage to listen to constituents at the Anchorage Assembly Chambers. Each attendee had an opportunity to testify for two minutes on issues important to them. We heard a great amount about the need to support and fund public education, as well as the need for new revenue. Thank you to everyone who joined us on Saturday.
Update on Sole-Source Contract:
Pressure continues to mount on the Governor to reveal who in his administration directed a massive sole-source, no-bid contract to the family of his largest campaign donor.  
REAL ID:
Without REAL IDs or other identification acceptable to TSA (such as a passport), Alaskans will not be able to fly commercial after October 1. Initially, the Dunleavy Administration was trying to force tribes to pay for DMV outreach in rural Alaska, a separate-and-unequal policy that would discriminate against rural residents and potentially keep many Alaskans from flying into Anchorage or Seattle for medical care. Fortunately, with sustained pressure from the Tribal Affairs and State Affairs Committees, and advocacy by Alaska Native non-profits, the administration is taking small steps to improve outreach to rural Alaska. We will need to monitor this issue closely to ensure all Alaskans have access to IDs that are necessary for travel after October 1.
Budget Big Picture:
Here’s the bottom line: We have enough revenue this year to pass a balanced budget and pay a roughly $650 PFD. A larger PFD than that requires drawing down savings or passing new revenue. I categorically will not vote for a budget that over-draws the Permanent Fund. Unfortunately, the Governor continues to promise the impossible, most recently by proposing an extra $1,304 PFD that would require over-drawing the Permanent Fund. Personally, I think we should change the conversation: Alaska needs to grow our Permanent Fund to $100 billion so that we are financially independent of oil prices and other factors beyond our control. In the short to medium term, we need to generate modest additional revenue and appropriate a PFD that we can afford. Any other course of action imperils our economy, our schools, our ferries, and our ability to fund the most basic public safety programs.
Pioneer Homes:
Many people ask me about the Pioneer Homes. HB 96, which would reverse the Governor’s rate hikes, is in Senate Finance, and if it passes out of that committee it will go to the Senate floor. A hearing date for HB 96 has not been set in Finance yet. I appreciate all the Senators who have cross-sponsored and worked to advance this bill.
See you around the neighborhood,
Zack
Real ID Coming Soon: Beat the lines and visit the DMV now
Reminder: Beginning
in October 2020, you will need a Real ID or it's equivalent to board a commercial airline, enter a federal building, or gain access to a military base. For more information, visit: http://doa.alaska.gov/dmv/akol/ID%20News.htm
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