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December 16, 2019
Budgets and Christmas Trees
Last Wednesday, Governor Mike Dunleavy unveiled his budget proposal for the next fiscal year. I anticipated a budget with deep cuts to many of the essential state services that I have been fighting to protect. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find, for the most part, a status-quo budget. While certainly not perfect, the Legislature can work with this budget as a starting point.
The most promising aspect is public education is fully funded according to the established formula. The governor’s apparent support for full K-12 funding, coupled with the commitment of most lawmakers to do the same, virtually assures that there will not be any K-12 education cuts in the FY 21 budget. This is a positive development to provide our teachers, parents, and students with some budget certainty that has been missing in recent years.
Another positive development in the budget is a commitment to fund more resources for public safety. I support the three new state prosecutors and 15 new state troopers included in the governor's draft budget, and I will work to ensure those items stay in the budget. I support more law and order in Alaska, and I will work alongside anyone who can help make that happen no matter their party affiliation.
While there is a lot of good in the governor’s budget proposal, there are some legitimate concerns. The governor relies on a $1.5 billion draw on our primary savings account to balance the budget. That would leave the Constitutional Budget Reserve with a balance of $542 million, which is much less than what the financial experts and our own Legislative Finance Division say is optimal to respond to unforeseen emergencies. Additionally, the governor is proposing some cuts to vital state agencies like the Departments of Fish and Game and Environmental Conservation. All of this demands intense scrutiny by the Alaska Legislature.
With the release of the budget proposal from Governor Dunleavy, the clock starts to tick down to the start of the legislative session on January 21. It’s my sincere hope that the political ranker and dysfunction that plagued the Alaska Legislature in 2019 is replaced in 2020 by a spirit of compromise and understanding among men and women elected to come together to put the future of Alaska and its people above ego and partisan politics.
Cut Your Own Christmas Tree
One of the most enduring symbols of Christmas is the Christmas tree. Every year an estimated 25 – 30 million real Christmas trees are sold nationwide. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying your tree on the open market, there is an alternative. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources allows Alaskans to venture out to selected areas of state land to find the perfect tree and take it home free of charge.
Christmas trees can only be taken from areas that are open to cutting, and selected trees can’t be taller than 15 feet. You are only allowed to cut down one tree per household and cutting trees within a state park or experimental forest is prohibited. Follow this link to find maps of areas open to Christmas tree cutting and detailed information on how to care for your fresh-cut tree.
I’m here for you, so please keep in touch on matters important to you and your family!
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