May 1, 2023

 

Dear Friends and Neighbors:


A little over a week ago, it was a privilege to stand on the plaza of Sealaska in celebration of the arrival and raising of the first 13 poles in the new Kootéeyaa Deiyí. It was amazing to see so many friends and neighbors from across the region gathered together for this incredible ceremony!

Representative Story and I Attending the Kootéeyaa Deiyí Celebration

Across House District 2 postcards should be arriving from my office inviting folks to sign up for the weekly newsletter. We’ll continue sending newsletters out on Mondays until session ends, when we’ll shift to a monthly newsletter for the interim months of June – December. Thank you for sharing the newsletter and helping me connect with others in your community.


Now that we’ve reached May things in the Capitol are starting to move very quickly. Please stay tuned to the Southeast Swell as the first half of the 33rd Legislature speeds to an end over the next couple of weeks.

Please continue to 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!

Mariculture in House District 2



Last week I was able to spend time with a representative from the Dutch company, Kelp Blue. Over the next few years, they hope to have permits in place, a processing building, and employees to operate a kelp farm on Prince of Wales. This is incredible investment in our region, and I was impressed with this company’s business model: a high-quality product with low impact, sustainable and year-round jobs, and beneficial to the environment. I am optimistic about this development on POW!


Meeting with Caroline Slootweg of Kelp Blue

Fiscal Plan


The governor held a press conference this past Thursday to discuss the need for new revenue measures to balance the budget. I, too, see the need for additional revenue, and it was encouraging to hear the governor also recognizes this need.  Proposals to generate revenue have been discussed for years. Governor Walker introduced a suite of bills to generate revenue during his term as governor, but the legislature failed to adopt them. The need for revenue has continued to be discussed in recent years, but no substantive action has been taken.


The challenge has always been, and continues to be, finding a proposal or group of proposals that the majority of the House and Senate and governor can agree on. Some legislators favor using a greater portion of the permanent fund earnings to fund the government, while others support an income tax and still others prefer a sales tax. There are also discussions of changes to the oil and gas tax structure to increase revenues, a spending cap and even cuts to corporate income tax to incentivize development.


As you can see, there is no shortage of ideas. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on a fiscal plan that works for Alaska. I will support a revenue package that is fair to the rural residents of Alaska.  

 

New Revenue Proposals

 

There are a number new revenue bills introduced this session, as well as an incoming sales tax bill from the governor. Each bill description includes a relevant news article about the respective bill:

 

HB 142, STATE SALES AND USE TAX, (Rep. Ben Carpenter): Enacts a 2% statewide sales tax without exemptions.

 

HB 153, OIL AND GAS PROPERTY TAX (Rep. Cliff Groh): Increases oil and gas property tax from $2 to $3 per $100 in value.

 

HB 156, INCOME TAX (Rep. Alyse Galvin): Reinstates state income tax with a $20 head tax for every Alaskan, and taxing 2% of annual income for Alaskans earning above $200,000.



SB 114, OIL & GAS PRODUCTION TAX; INCOME TAX (Senate Rules): Oil and gas tax reform bill which lowers the oil per barrel tax credit from $8 to $5, address the corporate tax loophole for S-corporations, and "ringfence" production tax credits to specific projects.

 

SB 122, APPORTION TAXABLE INCOME; DIGITAL BUSINESS (Senate Rules): Brings Alaska’s tax apportionment system into the 21st century. SB 122 implements a “market-based” methodology where sales will be considered to happen in Alaska when the market for the sales is in Alaska and mandates that the state will only use the sales factor in tax apportionment for highly digitized businesses.

Bills that Passed the House Last Week


Education Committee


Last week the Education Committee passed three bills out of committee. 


·      HB 105, SEX/REPRODUCTION EDUCATION; SCHOOLS

·      HB 106, TEACHER RECRUITMENT; LUMP SUM PAYMENT

·      HB 111, EDUCATION FOR DEAF & HEARING IMPAIRED


As I have written in the past, I have serious concerns with HB 105. The committee substitute that Representative Ruffridge introduced made some significant changes to the bill. While the committee substitute removed some of the more controversial parts of the bill, it now mandates that parents provide written permission for school activities, classes and programs. This seems completely undoable for school districts and would mean that nothing could be done spontaneously at school. There is an article in the Alaska Beacon that provides more information on the bill that ultimately passed. I was a no vote on the bill’s final passage, but before it passed I was successfully able to amend it so that it includes a small funding factor to help cover the mandates in the bill. I will keep a close eye on this bill as it moves through the committee process.

 

House Bill 106 also passed out of committee without either of my amendments passing. This bill provides salary bonuses for teachers for the next three years. My amendments would have expanded those bonuses to also cover paraprofessionals and other support staff as we know these folks are critical to our schools’ success, and it would have made the bonuses permanent, not just a three-year trial. I struggled with this bill because the teachers I know would benefit from the bonuses, but an increase in the base student allocation would provide for more modest salary increases along with improved working conditions such as smaller class sizes, nurses and librarians, modernized curriculum and other things that make teaching and learning more successful.

What You Can Do

Discuss Maritime Training Needs in Southeast Alaska

  • Tomorrow, May 2nd, from 11 am – 2 pm, at the UAS Campus in Sitka, join in the conversation with the team from the Alaska Maritime Education Consortium to identify challenges to training a local maritime workforce and discuss ways to overcome the challenges and increase the numbers of Alaskans ready for jobs and careers in the local maritime industry. Please register online to participate.


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.