Crunch time! Bills on the Move, Income Taxes, Scholarships at Risk
Crunch Time – 10 Days!
Rep. Kawasaki hearing testimony in Finance Committee
There are only 10 days left in regular session, but Republican leadership has already warned us about another special session. The Senate passed a resolution calling for a special session on the road system-which likely means Anchorage-over one week ago. Many of my Independent Democratic Coalition members and I have called on legislators to focus, work hard and get the job done within the 90-day voter-mandated deadline. During these last several days, the legislature is also under a shorter schedule to notify the public of important bills and public testimony. While this is supposed to be helpful for the legislature to complete the work on time, it has also been used, in my opinion, to undermine the public process and short circuit public input. If you have any questions on a certain piece of legislation, please contact my office at 907.456.7423.
On The Move
Rep. Kawasaki asking questions on Oil and Gas taxes.
HB 247, the Governor’s bill to reform oil and gas tax credits, has been in House Finance Committee over the last week and is expected to be voted on soon. I was disappointed the House Resources committee gutted the bill last month and eliminated more than $765-million in savings and new revenue. If the Legislature fails to pass meaningful reforms, Alaskans will have to pay out more in oil tax credits and subsidies than we take in from our production tax for the foreseeable future.
SB 91, sponsored by Senator John Coghill, considers sweeping criminal justice reforms. The legislature has seen growth in prison populations which are costly and recidivism rates that indicate our justice system does little to reform. The current bill could help reduce nearly $425-million in spending over 10 years.
SB 74, sponsored by Senator Pete Kelly, reforms Medicaid to increase health outcomes and decrease costs. The bill has many aspects under review by the House Finance Committee before it is finalized. On balance, it is a good bill that should save the state a significant amount of money. I will continue to ensure that the focus will remain on patient satisfaction first.
State Income Taxes
This week the House Finance Committee began holding hearing on two different income tax bills. HB 250 was proposed by the Governor and contains a 6% tax on an individual’s federal tax liability. This means a married couple with two children making $100,000 a year would pay about $465 to the state. Alternatively, the PFD restructuring program would result in a loss of family income of over $4,000 in the first year. Representative Seaton’s HB 365 includes a 15% tax on federal tax liability and some changes to the Permanent Fund Dividend. Over the next two weeks I expect the committee to thoroughly consider these two bills and their implications on working families.
Senior Property Tax Exemptions and Performance Scholarship at Risk
Rep. Kawasaki Speaking to colleagues in the House Speaker’s Chambers
Last week, the Republican-led Senate Finance Committee introduced a package of bills (SB 207, SB 208, SB 209 and SB 210) that would shift the state deficit onto cities, college students and seniors. This misguided attempt to cut spending would only increase the amount school districts and cities pay for retirement, thus increasing property taxes to local communities. The package would also cut the Alaska Performance Scholarship, a scholarship given to Alaska’s brightest high school graduates attending the University of Alaska, and the Alaska Education Grantfor low income college students.
Senate Finance suggests the state could make up for lost revenue by making property tax exemptions for seniors and disabled veterans optional. This is outrageous. Municipalities would be forced to cut services and increase local taxes, including property taxes, to make up for the lack of state support. Instead of solving the state’s deficit, these bills push the problem onto cities.
Cutting support to Alaska’s cities puts the state at risk of further economic damage and recession. Similarly, cutting scholarship programs would limit diversification in the economy and cripple the future of Alaska’s workforce.
Working Hard for Fairbanks Families,
Representative Scott Kawasaki
Alaska State Representative
City of Fairbanks
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