Action Needed on the Budget and Medicaid Expansion Before Lawmakers Take Vacations
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 29, 2015
JUNEAU – The Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition concurs with Governor Bill Walker in his call for lawmakers to continue working towards a fully funded budget before taking a break from the special session in Juneau. On Monday, without support from the 13 members of the Coalition, the House and Senate Majorities approved a FY 2016 budget that includes a five percent cut to public education and spending over $3 billion more than available revenue. This flawed budget could result in the elimination of vital state services as soon as August.
“The members of this Coalition are committed to working on the people’s business and putting solutions before politics,” said Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition Leader Representative Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage). “There is not a member in this Legislature that wants to go home more than me. I have only seen my new baby girl for a few hours because of the vital work we are doing here in Juneau. However, I agree with Governor Walker that going home and delaying the work of this Legislature at this time would be irresponsible.”
During the process to develop a responsible budget, the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition repeatedly offered proposals to defer the hundreds of millions in oil company tax credits that results in the state paying out over $600 million more than the state makes from oil production taxes. Rather than accept this common sense solution, members of the Majorities put forward proposals to implement income, gas, and education taxes. Majority members also put forward proposals to fund state government with money from the Permanent Fund.
“I can’t support treating oil corporations better than children and seniors. Our Coalition has prioritized education, seniors, and children while saving money through Medicaid expansion and smart cuts,” said House Finance Committee member Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage).
In his call for a special session, Governor Walker tasked the Legislature with considering Medicaid expansion and reform. Currently, Alaska is losing $400,000 a day in funding because the House and Senate Majorities refuse to give the Governor the authority to receive federal funds for Medicaid expansion. Alaska has lost over $190 million in funding since January of last year.
“The argument put forward by the House and Senate Majorities that they need more time to consider Medicaid expansion and reform does not hold water,” said Representative Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage), who prefiled a Medicaid expansion bill this session after offering the same bill in the 28th Alaska Legislature. “The issue has been discussed at length for over two years and we have successful examples of Medicaid expansion in several other states to use as a guide. The truth is that Alaska is currently spending extra money to deny people healthcare because some in leadership refuse to listen to the people and are putting ideology before the health of thousands of Alaskans.”
The Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition remains committed to the legislative process and is hopeful negotiations will begin again, in earnest, on a full funded budget that meets the needs of the people of Alaska.