|Protecting Your Rights: Serving Sand Lake, Spenard, and Turnagain|
|March 11, 2016
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The House debated the budget until early this morning, which finally passed around 3am. The House consider several amendments, which included additional cost savings as well as funding for programs benefitting seniors, early childhood education, and public safety.
Passing this budget in the House is one step toward addressing our fiscal challenges. The legislature has not acted on any of the revenue proposals in the Walker-Mallott plan, and we have a lot of work for a responsible action plan for Alaska.
Budget and Budget Amendments:
I offered several amendments last night that addressed some of my concerns with the state's operating budget. The first budget amendment have would have saved $38.9 million in state funds. The $38.9 million dollar total comes from funds left for the Juneau Access Road, the Knik Arm Crossing, the Kodiak Rocket Launch Facility, the Susitna-Watana Dam, and the Ambler Mining District Road. In our constituent survey this year, 89% of West Anchorage residents are concerned or very concerned about the state's fiscal environment and 88% want to see mega-projects cut from the budget. Like you, I want to see smart and focused state development projects that are tied to a strong economy.
In a time when we are having to make tough decisions about life saving programs, cutting multi-million dollar mega projects from our budget sheets should be one of the few simple decisions we make this year.
Medicaid Expansion Lawsuit:
Additionally, I offered an amendment to lapse any existing funds ($150,000) directed to the Medicaid expansion litigation, filed in Alaska Legislative Council v. Governor Walker. This lawsuit is a failed venture by some members of the Legislature and has already cost the state thousands of dollars to pay a law firm from Washington DC. The Legislative Council has already lost three decisions. Appealing the decision by Judge Pfiffner who ruled in favor of Governor Walker would only cost the state more money. Deciding whether to appeal a lawsuit after the superior court rules against the Legislative Council call for careful consideration of the merits of an appeal. Are we likely to prevail in the Alaska Supreme Court? How much money will it cost to prosecute an appeal in these challenging fiscal times? Instead of spending $100,000 or more continuing with a lawsuit that has already lost three times in court, we should be focusing our efforts on reforming the Medicaid system.
I also offered an amendment that would have restored three district attorney positions to the Department of Law. There's no question that our criminal justice system needs critical reform, and I support the efforts of the Criminal Justice Commission and Senate Bill 91. The District Attorney's office is a critical component to any criminal justice system. Criminal justice reform seeks to reduce the costs to corrections and reduce recidivism through reinvestment while protecting victims. Since 2013, the State has eliminated 9 prosecutor positions in the Department of Law. From 2013, the amount of misdemeanor cases declined for prosecution by the DA has been reduced by 7% and the number of felonies accepted for prosecution has reduced by 4%. Fewer district attorneys mean fewer prosecutions and limits on the prosecutors capacity to thoroughly screen criminal cases.
Senate Bill 23 to Stop Heroin Overdose:
Earlier this week, the House passed Senate Bill 23, which allows Alaskans to obtain the lifesaving drug that revives an individual suffering from a heroin overdose. This medicine prevents a person's heart from stopping after they have overdosed on an opioid drug. We reviewed the bill in the House Judiciary Committee and I am pleased that it is on its way to the Governor's Office to be signed into law.
As always, please let us know if you have other suggestions or concerns.
Rep. Matt Claman
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