April 10, 2023


Dear Friends and Neighbors:

Last week the House considered amendments to the operating budget on the floor. We will likely vote on the budget tomorrow and pass it out of the body. The same process is happening in the other body as the Senators continue to consider the Governor’s proposed budget.

Budgeting is never easy, whether it’s a personal budget, a school district budget, a municipal budget, or a budget for the 723,000 Alaskans who sent us to Juneau. A budget is a statement of values, and when it involves public funds, the stakes could not be higher. More on the budget process below.

This issue of Southeast Swell covers last week’s budget work. The Legislature has a constitutional obligation to pass a budget for the next fiscal year. Since this is our most important work in Juneau, there is a lot to cover this week.  

If you have thoughts on the budget, or bills we are considering, please reach out! You can email me at rep.himschoot@akleg.gov, or call my office at (907) 465-3732, with general questions, suggestions or concerns. If you are going to be in Juneau, I look forward to meeting with you. Just call ahead and set up a time with my office staff. 

As always, please share Southeast Swell with your contacts and encourage them to sign up to receive the newsletter – we would like to reach more people in House District 2!

A break on the House Floor with my fellow House Coalition members, Representatives Genevieve Mina and Ashley Carrick

Operating Budget on the House Floor

We spent much of last week debating the operating budget on the House Floor. Ninety-three amendments were drafted, and while not all were offered, we still spent over 30 hours considering amendments. I am proud to be a member of the House Coalition and during the budget process members of the coalition offered amendments to both balance the budget and provide the government services Alaskans deserve and depend on.

Unfortunately, the budget that we are currently considering is about $580 million in the red and it largely flat funds most of our state agencies. We have been flat funding state agencies and services for years, despite inflation. The FY 24 budget continues to do this, and it impacts Alaskans and our state’s ability to be “open for business.” 

For example, our school districts are being forced to use money meant for classroom instruction to cover the cost of pupil transportation. Earlier this year the SNAP food assistance program failed because of a lack of adequate staff and funding. There are fewer people to process business licenses and staff the Division of Motor Vehicles offices and not enough biologists to conduct necessary research at Fish and Game. Scrutinizing and managing the people’s money is something I take very seriously, but maintaining essential government services is equally serious. 

In addition to my concerns with flat funding departments and services, it was disappointing to see $5 million in funding for 404 primacy added back in to the budget after being taken out by the full finance committee. This money will support the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) goal to take over the Clean Water Act 404 permitting program from the federal government. Given that we are struggling to fill the current DEC staff positions and to balance our budget, it is difficult to add a new, expensive program at this time. This decision might be something we re-consider down the road.    

During budget debates I opposed some amendments such as the one to add 404 primacy, but I also supported others offered by House Coalition members to provide critical services for Alaskans. Unfortunately, nearly all the amendments offered by the House Coalition were voted down by the House majority, including:

  • $20 million for pupil transportation, based on the estimated FY 24 pupil transportation deficit for the larger school districts in Alaska.
  • $320 thousand for the Imagination Library, to help children learn to read with books delivered to their home from the time they are born
  • $10 million increment for childcare assistance, so that young families can go to work.
  • $6.5 million to address the waitlist for Alaskans seeking Intellectual and Developmental Disabled (IDD) waivers and Individualized Supports Waivers (ISW). I know someone whose adult son has been on the waitlist for nearly two decades.
  •  $625 thousand for Statewide Library Electronic Doorway (SLED) which supports online learning and the Alaska Library Catalog. SLED is available in even the most remote Alaskan communities providing online tutoring and independent study resources.      
  •  $360 thousand for the Infant Learning Program, which identifies and serves infants and toddlers who are not meeting their benchmarks.
  • $3 million for domestic violence shelters, which in rural communizes now also serve the hungry and unhoused.


It’s important to recognize the state has enough money to balance the budget, increase funding for these programs to match inflation and still provide a permanent fund dividend (PFD) higher than the historical average at around $1300. Amendments offered by Representatives Hannan and Ortiz would have created the 75/25 split of percent of market value (POMV) earnings between state services and the PFD to balance the budget, support additional programs to provide critical services and provide a higher-than-average PFD. I supported these amendments, but they did not gain House majority votes and failed. 

Supporting Alaskans, especially those who live with very little, with a large PFD is something I would ultimately like to see. However, the nonpartisan Legislative Finance Division has modeled that if we authorize a $2700 dividend this year, the savings account we use to make those payments will be overdrawn in five years. 

If there were a solid plan for new revenues within the five years, I would crack open the piggy bank to fulfill that dividend amount. Unfortunately, at the moment, there is no viable plan for the amount of revenue it would take to remain solvent beyond the five-year mark. If the state is successful in adding new revenues, I will wholeheartedly support the biggest PFD we can afford.

In the absence of the necessary revenue my budget votes reflect the value I place on reducing Alaska’s domestic violence, feeding hungry Alaskans, supporting commerce with adequately staffing state services, and providing the best public schools for all children.

Discussing the budget on the Floor with Representative Cliff Groh and House Minority Leader Calvin Schrage

Fisheries Committee

On April 1st the Governor made three appointments to the Board of Fisheries to replace John Jensen, McKenzie Mitchell and Mike Heimbuch. These appointments are in addition to the recent appointment of Stan Zuray.   


  • Gerad Godfrey (Eagle River) is a Chairman of the FirstNet Tribal Working Group, a Board member of Kizhuyak Oil Sales Inc., the Treasurer of Native Public Media, a Council member for the Native Village of Port Lions (NVPL), and a Director of the Connecting Alaska Consortium.
  • Greg Svendsen (Anchorage) is a third-generation Alaskan, avid hunter and fisherman. He is a member of the Barker Ranch Board of Directors and leads sponsored duck hunts for combat veterans.
  • Mike Wood (Talkeetna) is a commercial fisherman in the Upper Cook Inlet, Chair of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission, and Vice Chair of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game's Upper Susitna Advisory Committee.

While I am still learning more about these appointees, I am concerned that many of the board members will be from Southcentral Alaska leaving almost all Coastal Alaska without representation on the board, if these appointees are confirmed. There will be a confirmation hearing next Thursday, April 13th at 6:00 pm. I encourage you to listen online to this Fisheries Committee meeting and call in to testify if you have concerns. Please see information below on testifying. 

Constituent Visits

I had visits from constituents this week including representatives from the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, a Sitka School District colleague, and a Sitka pharmacist. Due to the long floor discussions on the budget, my staff met with these constituents and passed along their legislative priorities to me. I do my very best to meet with all constituents who have made the trip to Juneau, but every once in a while my legislative business prevents me from doing this and I am grateful my experienced staff can fill in.  

Visiting with my constituent Mike Vieira on the House Floor

Education Committee

In Education last week committee members gave consideration to the Governor’s appointees for the Professional Teaching Practices Commission (Mary Carlson) and the Board of Education and Early Development (James Fields).

Also last week the Education Committee heard a presentation on HB 148, AK PERFORMANCE SCHOLARSHIP; ELIGIBILITY. The committee bill would expand the types of classes students can concentrate on and still be eligible for the scholarship. This would allow for students not only seeking more traditional college degrees to participate, but students focused on career and technical education to qualify, as well. In addition, it would allow students to apply earlier, making the Alaska Performance Scholarship more competitive with outside university scholarship programs. Finally, the bill would increase the amount that hardworking students would receive. These changes align with the recommendations from an evaluation of the decade-old scholarship program.  

What You Can Do

Watch the Recording of the Mariculture Lunch and Learn held on Tuesday, April 4th and Review the Presentations

  • Last Tuesday, my office hosted a “Lunch & Learn” on mariculture in conjunction with the Southeast Conference. It was great to see so many legislators and staffers attend this event to learn about the potential for mariculture growth in Alaska. For anyone who would like to learn more, and did not have an opportunity to watch the event live in the Capitol, there is an archived video recording online on the Alaska State Legislature website. The PowerPoint presentations from the event are also available on the website.  

Mariculture Lunch & Learn presenters:

Dan Lesh, Deputy Director, Southeast Conference

Juliana Leggitt, Project Manager, Alaska Mariculture Cluster, Southeast Conference

Jordan Hollarsmith, Mariculture Research Lead, NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center

Testify Before the House Fisheries and Resources Committees on Thursday, April 13th at 6:00 pm on the Governor’s Board of Fisheries Appointees

  • On Thursday, the House Fisheries and Resources Committees will meet jointly to hold a confirmation hearing on the Board of Fisheries appointees.
  • If you would like to testify on the appointment of Stanley Zuray, Gerad Godfrey, Greg Svendsen and/or Mike Wood to the Board of Fisheries, please call in this Thursday, April 13, at 6:00 pm.
  • You can testify from your local legislative information office or by calling 1-844-586-9085 (from outside Juneau and Anchorage), 586-9085 from a Juneau prefix and 563-9085 from an Anchorage prefix.  

Testify Before the House Education Committee on Thursday, April 13th at 5:15 pm on HB 105

  • If you did not get a chance to testify on HB 105, SEX/REPRODUCTION EDUCATION; SCHOOLS a couple of weeks ago you have another chance this week.
  • This Thursday, April 13, at 5:15 pm the Committee will again take public testimony on HB 105 for those of you who did not get a chance to call in the first time.
  • You can testify from your local legislative information office or by calling 1-844-586-9085 (from outside Juneau and Anchorage), 586-9085 from a Juneau prefix, and 563-9085 from an Anchorage prefix. 
  • When you call to testify, you will speak with an operator; you will then need to ask to be transferred into the House Education Committee to testify on HB 105.

Follow the Legislature and Comment

  • If there is a bill or resolution you want to follow, you can get an email update every time action is taken on the legislation with the Bill Tracking Management Facility.