Happy New Year! Looking Ahead to the 2020 Legislative Session
Rep. Wool tours the satellite facility on top of the geophysical institute during the UAF Research showcase in November.
Dear friends, neighbors, and fellow Fairbanksans,
Happy New Year and welcome to a new decade!
I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and are excited about the new year ahead. It’s been a very eventful year in politics and our state is very much a part of that. We had a tumultuous session last year that went on way too long but finally ended up in a decent place. Our Governor threatened to cut many needed state programs and departments but in the end we managed to hold back on most of the cuts. Unfortunately the University didn’t go unscathed and ended up cutting a deal with the Governor to cut a total of $75M over three years instead of the threatened cut of $135M over one year which would’ve been disastrous. The other aspect of state services that was severely impacted (in my opinion) is the ferry system. Many coastal communities won’t have ferry service for many months this winter and that will have a devastating effect on their economies and on the quality of life in these remote places.
For this next session the Governor has proposed a similar budget as the one finally passed last year which compared to what was rumored is fairly good news. The catch is that the Governor also wants to pay a full statutory dividend, something that hasn’t happened in many years, and that will cause the budget to be undoable given our revenue projections. We simply can’t afford to run the state as we now know it and pay every man, woman and child a $3000 PFD check. Just to put these number in perspective a $1600 PFD costs about $1B. A $3000 PFD costs $1.9B. Oil revenue to the state last year was $2.2B. So if we pay a $3000 PFD it is almost the same as paying out the state’s entire oil revenue in PFD checks. We can pass the Governor’s proposed budget this coming year and not go into deficit if we pay a $700 PFD. Last year that number was a $900 PFD. The average check amount over the life of the PFD program is $1100 (not adjusted for inflation).The state budget has been cut on the operations side alone over $1B in the last 5 years. The University has been cut over $50M in the last years alone. We have made cuts. The capital budget is a mere sliver of what it once was. Oil revenue is down this year and the mainstay of our income portfolio is the very recent POMV (percent of market value) draw from the body of the permanent fund. If we didn’t have this draw we would be in very dire straits. We need a new formula for the PFD so we can pay it according to a new statutory formula and then think about ways to increase revenue to pay for things that the people have told us they want: good schools, public safety, affordable pioneer homes, safe roads and quality infrastructure and a healthy and vibrant economy so people will continue to choose to stay and live and raise families in Alaska. My own legislation, HB 132, would change the formula and tie the dividend directly to oil and gas revenues – if the price of oil, volume of oil produced, or taxes paid to the state increased, so too would our annual checks. This would help to stabilize state revenue while ensuring that residents remained engaged on the details of oil prices production, and policy. Hopefully, this bill will gain some traction this session.
Rep. Wool with other Interior Legislators as Rebecca Missler receives the national award from the Milken Family Foundation for her teaching excellence at North Pole High School.
UA Regents Decide to Postpone Consolidation Vote
During the BOR discussions through the summer and fall, the idea to consolidate the University system into a single institution with one accreditation and three campuses in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau gained some momentum. While this is not a new idea, it was discussed more seriously over the last few months as a potential cost savings approach for UA. Consolidation would allow the University to avoid duplication across campuses, streamline some programs and services, and also reduce administrative burdens. Corporations sometimes tend towards a similar approach during lean financial times in which they merge with competitors to achieve an economy of scale and are able to reduce redundancies and consolidate services. I would much rather see UA lose some administrative sectors than lose educational programs and majors. They’ve already lost over 50 programs in the last several years. Consolidation was an approach that I favored, but the vote over whether to consolidate was postponed until after UAF receives their re-accreditation in the fall of 2020. This means that the University system will have to find other ways to reduce their budget if the cuts agreed to by the Board of Regents and the Governor are approved by the Legislature, which is likely. Going forward, I would like to see consolidation reconsidered as I believe this is an important mechanism for keeping the University as the vibrant and important economic engine of Alaska and be able to be a choice for many of the talented students and faculty that make Alaska their home.
Rep. Wool holds a hibernating ground squirrel at UAF Research Day.
Keep in Touch During the Legislative Session
While I am about to head back to Juneau for another legislative session, I want to thank my constituents and the many other Alaskans who are staying engaged by calling, emailing, and stopping by our office here in Fairbanks. Here is how you can stay in touch with me this year in Juneau:
Give me a call in Juneau: 907-465-4976
Send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are planning to head down to Juneau and want to stop by this session, we have moved offices! We will now be in Room 501. Also, you can always stop by the LIO here in Fairbanks if you need a space to watch live committee hearings and Floor sessions. You can also stream these meetings at http://www.akleg.gov.
Rep. Wool with Sen. Coghill and Sen. Stedman to welcome members of the Yakutsk Sister City delegation to Fairbanks.
Another Reminder: Real ID
The Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) would like to inform you of an important change coming in October of 2020. Under federal law, beginning October 1, 2020, you will not be able to board a commercial airline, enter a federal building, or gain access to a military base with your standard Alaska Drivers License or Identification Card. You will need a federally compliant ID, which includes a REAL ID, Passport, Military ID, and other options. A complete list of acceptable travel documents is available at: TSA Travel Information <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__Facebook.us20.list-2Dmanage.com_track_click-3Fu-3D14169265252c16d2dbe7ca6f4-26id-3D593bf33206-26e-3D4c519149ed&d=DwMFaQ&c=Q8iJasR7RZ-J0Fd9RXD9ZA&r=EzXblUQjmKnPkNdgB_YuOKHc3dajqLKA2i11RijIWJ9I6pFEUb3RQr_AKQKVPetB&m=sBrD7-AQYcLR61ft9FJX7mwDt3tAkmEMNQkafk1fyV0&s=89tqat7oLDHaZteRDYNbmnqgz3Z42jk93iCI5645_9Y&e=> . <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__Facebook.us20.list-2Dmanage.com_track_click-3Fu-3D14169265252c16d2dbe7ca6f4-26id-3Db28d430cd7-26e-3D4c519149ed&d=DwMFaQ&c=Q8iJasR7RZ-J0Fd9RXD9ZA&r=EzXblUQjmKnPkNdgB_YuOKHc3dajqLKA2i11RijIWJ9I6pFEUb3RQr_AKQKVPetB&m=sBrD7-AQYcLR61ft9FJX7mwDt3tAkmEMNQkafk1fyV0&s=uFfY5jeVO1BqY7ZDfYZsDIpkNTWyFR2e2x3Ux9pa9ps&e=>
For a complete list of acceptable documents, view our checklist here: REAL ID Checklist. <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__Facebook.us20.list-2Dmanage.com_track_click-3Fu-3D14169265252c16d2dbe7ca6f4-26id-3D1783239ab1-26e-3D4c519149ed&d=DwMFaQ&c=Q8iJasR7RZ-J0Fd9RXD9ZA&r=EzXblUQjmKnPkNdgB_YuOKHc3dajqLKA2i11RijIWJ9I6pFEUb3RQr_AKQKVPetB&m=sBrD7-AQYcLR61ft9FJX7mwDt3tAkmEMNQkafk1fyV0&s=7FtvGc7101015JvygK3KKXV7j51JcR7N1_NljyoZlAo&e=> We encourage you to share this information with your friends and family and if you have more questions, please visit the DMV’s FAQ page at: REAL ID FAQs <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__Facebook.us20.list-2Dmanage.com_track_click-3Fu-3D14169265252c16d2dbe7ca6f4-26id-3D7e7208133f-26e-3D4c519149ed&d=DwMFaQ&c=Q8iJasR7RZ-J0Fd9RXD9ZA&r=EzXblUQjmKnPkNdgB_YuOKHc3dajqLKA2i11RijIWJ9I6pFEUb3RQr_AKQKVPetB&m=sBrD7-AQYcLR61ft9FJX7mwDt3tAkmEMNQkafk1fyV0&s=iyilPZPmlW9N1rombHgCzKoCQMb8GQr9mWHPNIx_luU&e=> or contact the DMV directly at (907) 269-5551.
Upcoming Community Events
The days are getting lighter, but if you need some ideas to pass the time this January, here's a couple of community events that are coming up:
December 31- Sparktacular at UAF Museum of the North: 5:30-9:00pm
Enjoy free admission at the Museum of the North and then grab a hot drink and a cookie before the New Year's Eve fireworks celebration.
January 17- Kidfest 2020 at the Carlson Center: 5:00pm
Bring your kids to the Carlson Center for a variety of games, booths, and bounce houses.
January 29- Project Homeless Connect at JP Jones Community Center: 10:00am-1:00pm
This community event allows folks in need to receive warm winter gear, services, and a free lunch.
Ongoing- FNSB Community Survey on the Borough website
Provide your feedback on the FNSB Borough website as they work to improve the site. The survey can be found at this link: http://www.fnsb.us/Pages/default.aspx# <http://www.fnsb.us/Pages/default.aspx>
Rep. Wool answers questions at the Retired Public Employees of Alaska Lunch at Raven Landing.
As always, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions, comments, or concerns you may have and I will do my best to respond. Thank you!