Dear Neighbor,

Great news: On a 5-2 bipartisan vote, legislation (HB 65) to raise Base Student Allocation (BSA) education funding has passed out of the Education Committee despite Rep. Jamie Allard’s attempt to block it. Next, this legislation goes to the Finance Committee. While the Education Committee reduced the amount of the BSA increase from $1,250 to $800, the critical step was advancing this legislation so it can continue progress toward the House floor. Thanks to everyone who weighed in on this bill: Your testimony made a difference.

Commissioner and Legislative Pay:

I’m guessing many Alaskans are wondering, “what on earth is going on with the Salary Commission, firings by the Governor, and Commissioner/legislator pay?” 

Here’s a summary: The previous Salary Commission members recommended raising Commissioner pay to adjust for inflation. While I support that in general, I didn’t think it made sense to adjust executive pay before working on compensation and benefits for public employees writ large, so I joined other legislators in opposing that pay increase. Then the Governor fired all members of the Salary Commission, and in a single day the new Commissioners met, “amended” the previous salary report that we had already rejected, and sent it back to us with both raises for commissioners and legislators. 

There is significant legal ambiguity about where we are now: Does the Commission’s amended report reset the clock and give us 60 days to reject the report, or does the “amended” (yet rejected and vetoed) report stay on the previous timeline, meaning that only a few days are left to consider it? Legislative Legal Services (our non-partisan attorneys) advised us that the only clear way to reject pay increases is to pass legislation, and several legislators have introduced such legislation. I think it is pretty clear that the Salary Commission bungled the process. However: Both Commissioner and legislative pay should be sufficient to a) recruit and retain talent and b) ensure working class Alaskans with families can serve in the legislature, which is nearly impossible at the current low legislative salary levels. 

For these reasons, if legislation comes back to the floor I do not plan on voting to lower Commissioner or legislator pay. Most importantly, we need to keep our focus where it should be: Raising education funding and restoring pensions for public employees, and unfortunately over the last week the Salary Commission drama has taken away critical time and attention from chamber members and leadership.

Child Care Legislation:

This week the Health and Social Services had a first hearing on HB 46, my child care legislation that previously passed Labor and Commerce.

My hope is that Health and Social Services can advance consolidated child care legislation, since both HB 46 and HB 89 (Reps Coulombe, Fields, Armstrong) are in the committee and have important child care reforms.

My coworker, Evan Anderson and I, presenting HB 46 in Health & Social Services

Defined Benefits:

A majority of House members support defined benefits, but a minority of the majority is trying to kill any defined benefits bill. To this end, Representative Laddie Shaw, who chairs State Affairs, created a subcommittee to “study” SB 88, Senate legislation that is not even in the House, instead of reviewing HB 22, defined benefit legislation that is in Rep. Shaw’s committee at this moment. This is a clear cut delay tactic. I don’t think a tiny number of legislators should be able to block broadly-supported legislation that is critical for public safety and our economic competitiveness.

Budget Update: 

The Department of Revenue’s Spring Forecast reduces anticipated revenue by $925 million as a result of falling oil prices. What does this mean? We can pass a balanced budget, make a necessary $320 million increase to Base Student Allocation funding for schools, have a reasonable capital budget, fund critical human services and early education funding, and still afford a PFD of more than $1,000. This revenue forecast validates the benefits of my $1,000 PFD formula bill, HB 90. 

Right now, some members of the Finance Committee are advocating for a $2,700 PFD in the operating budget. A $2,700 PFD would make it impossible to fund education, defund human services, make it impossible to invest in capital projects, and produce a $400 million deficit, hitting the “triple crown” of fiscal irresponsibility, cruelty to kids and seniors, and undermining Alaska’s economic competitiveness. The Finance Committee will take up the operating budget soon, and with luck they’ll adjust the PFD to something we can afford along with investment in schools and human services.

I joined Fairview residents

last Saturday to brainstorm ways to address homelessness.

Liliane Ulukivaiola & Tafi Toleafoa from Pacific Community of Alaska discussed

to improve health and wellness in

the Pacific Islander community.

Remember to Vote in the Anchorage Municipal Election!

You should have received a ballot for the Anchorage Municipal election by now, and if you’ve already returned it in the mail or at a drop box: Thanks for voting. If you haven’t filled out your ballot yet, I just wanted to give a little additional information on notable ballot items affecting our district:

  • Special Proposition A, Park Bonds: Peratrovich Park, Ship Creek Trail, Chester Creek sports complex safety improvements, Fairview Rec Center, Coastal Trail to Ship Creek matching funds, Fish Creek to Coastal Trail matching funds, and Mulcahy Stadium improvements are all projects in our district that would be funded by the parks bond.

  • Proposition 6, Chugach State Park: This proposition would allow municipal investment in road improvements near overcrowded trailheads like Canyon Road, and improve access and trailhead sustainability for Chugach State Park.

  • Proposition 14, Child Care Funding: This bond item would dedicate marijuana tax proceeds to child care, generating an estimated $5.8 million in additional resources for the sector. It pairs a one-time $1 million reduction to the tax cap with a longer term shift of marijuana tax funding outside the tax cap, meaning that in aggregate it will enhance the city’s ability to fund child care and other public safety and educational needs.

There are many other propositions and elected positions on the ballot; I focused here on summarizing ones that have unique impact on our district or issues that we’ve worked on.

Pursuit of Federal Funds for District Priorities: 

Over the last few weeks I worked with Senator Murkowski’s office, the Anchorage Community Development Authority, and Anchorage Park Foundation on submittal of two projects for Congressionally Designated Funds, aka earmarks: 

  • Chester Creek trail corridor improvements in the Fairview and North Star neighborhoods

  • Investment in affordable housing redevelopment of the McKinley building downtown

We have a critical need to develop housing downtown and improve our park infrastructure and safety. I don’t know yet if these earmark requests will ultimately be successful, but I’ll keep looking for every opportunity to bring investment to our district, whether those are federal, state, or local funds. Thanks to staff at the Anchorage Parks Foundation and ACDA for collaborating on these projects, and thanks to our Assembly members Chris Constant and Dan Volland for writing letters of support along with me Senator Löki Tobin.

I'll be back in Anchorage this weekend for a constituent meet and greet on Saturday, March 25th at 8:30 am at the Downtown New Sagaya, it would be great to see you and catch up.

See you around the neighborhood,


Representative Zack Fields - House District 17

Serving Downtown, South Addition, Forest Park, North Star, and Fairview