May 8, 2023


Dear Friends and Neighbors:

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! Thriving public schools are the foundation of our economy and the heart of our communities.  The statute establishing Alaska’s schools reads “All students will succeed in their education and work, shape worthwhile and satisfying lives for themselves, exemplify the best values of society, and be effective in improving the character and quality of the world about them.” Please take a moment to thank the educators you know, and the families they partner with, for their work toward this worthy goal. 

Senator Bjorkman, High School Social Studies Teacher KPBSD, Representative Dibert, 3rd Grade Teacher FNSBSD, and I Celebrating our Educators

Last week felt like the “calm before the storm” in the Capitol. A few bills passed the floor of the House (see below for more information), but most committees have slowed to a crawl and wrapped up their work for this session.  As a reminder, any bills that don’t make it to the floor for consideration by the full body right now will continue in the second half of the 33rd Legislature next January. 

Please continue to reach out! You can email me at, 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!

In addition, if you are a new subscriber to the newsletter, you can read past editions on my page of the House Coalition website.

Wild Fish Conservancy Lawsuit

On Tuesday, May 2 a U.S. district judge adopted the report and recommendations of the magistrate judge to suspend the winter and summer Chinook troll fishery in Southeast. This is a devastating ruling for the 1500 fishermen who make their living pulling in one fish at a time by hook and line, a highly selective and sustainable fishery that has thrived in Southeast for over 100 years. The impacts will be felt in every community of Southeast, no matter how large or small. In response to the lawsuit my colleagues and I issued a press release expressing our disappointment with the ruling and I gave a special order on the House Floor. We are grateful for the administration’s commitment to assisting the trollers in defeating this challenge to our fisheries. Sound fisheries management should be based on science, not misguided lawsuits!

Giving a Special Order on the Wild Fish Conservancy Lawsuit

Juneau Blessing of the Fleet and Reading of Names

As happens at this time in many coastal fishing communities in Alaska, this annual event to celebrate the commercial fishing fleet in Alaska took place in Juneau on Saturday. It was a moving remembrance of those fishermen who have passed and an opportunity to bless and honor those still making their living on the sea. Thatcher Brouwer, my legislative aide, joined the procession on his fishing boat, the F/V Deep Sea, to receive a blessing. Each blessing was accompanied by music from the City of Juneau Pipe Band. 

F/V Deep Sea at the Blessing of the Fleet

State Services and a Fiscal Plan

In the absence of a fiscal plan one of the difficulties in creating the budget is that state agencies, along with schools, have basically been flat funded for nearly a decade. In the face of double-digit inflation over the same time period agencies have had to meet their mission with far less spending power. Belt tightening can be good, but squeezing agencies to the point they are unable to deliver the services Alaskans need is unacceptable. Here are some examples from constituents of where the state is falling short and negatively impacting Alaska's economy:

  • DMV wait times of over two hours.
  • The Department of Fish and Game has limited resources to conduct surveys, sometimes impacting commercial fisheries.
  • Ferries that don’t run predictably, or at all.
  • Delays in business licensing.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits that are over six months behind.


The failure of the SNAP program is especially troubling and shows just how fragile our state government is. SNAP benefits are 100% funded by the federal government and the federal government pays for half the cost of operating the program in Alaska. Despite most of the funds coming from the federal government, the state is still unable to get the funds to recipients due to outdated computer equipment and shortages of staff. It is too often the most vulnerable Alaskans bear the cost of the state's failure to deliver.

As Alaskans experience more and more of these “failures to deliver” the conversation about adding revenues continues to grow. The legislature must create a balanced annual budget to provide the services Alaskans need and expect, while also developing a comprehensive fiscal plan that keeps the state solvent for years to come. I joined with some of my colleagues and issued a statement on the importance of advancing a fiscal plan. As Representative Groh recently wrote in an opinion piece, we need to take action on a fiscal plan now. We cannot afford to continue to kick the can down the road. Our savings are virtually exhausted, and we are struggling to provide basic state services, such as SNAP benefits, to the neediest Alaskans.


What is Ahead

The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn by midnight on May 17th. Between now and then I am hopeful the Senate will revise the operating budget and send it to the House for a concurrence vote. I would also like to see the Senate complete their work on the capital budget and send it to the House so that House members can have some input into the capital projects being funded. Of course, there are many inner workings involved in those two budgets: whether the statutory formula for the dividend will be reformed, whether the Legislature will need to draw on the Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR), whether the increase to education funding will remain one-time funding, etc.

One thing we know for sure is that no matter how the available revenues get sliced and diced there is very little left for the capital budget and state services will largely be flat funded again. Without new revenues or deficit spending our capital budgets will remain small, state agencies will be flat funded and there will be a very limited amount for permanent fund dividends. 

For these reasons we need to pass a comprehensive fiscal plan. However, in addition to working on a fiscal plan, we also need to pass a budget by the end of the legislative session. Despite the limited revenue, we do have the ability to pass a balanced budget on time. If the legislature fails to pass a budget by the end of the session, we will send the wrong message to Alaskans. We need to pass a fully funded budget by the end of session so that Alaskans are not left worrying about a government shutdown.   

Bills that Passed the House Last Week

Attending a Rally in Support of Pensions for Public Employees

What You Can Do

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.