Day 90 With no Budget Deal: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
Representative Kawasaki working late with colleagues in the final days of session
Ninety days have passed, and the legislature is now in overtime. Republican leadership has failed to work out a deal and the House Independent Democratic Coalition expect them to request a special session. There have been some good things to pass so far, but there is still work that is being held up by leadership. Here’s an update on the good, the bad and the ugly as we roll over into an extended session. As always, if you have any questions on a certain piece of legislation, please contact my office at (907) 456-7423.
Medicaid reform (SB 74), by Senator Pete Kelly, has passed in both the House and Senate and is headed to the Governor’s desk. This bill could not only save the state $365 million in its first 6 years, it will improve health outcomes in rural areas and across the state, help reduce fraud in our Medicaid system and help fight opioid abuse.
SJR 2 is a measure I cosponsored that would propose a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. It would allow the use of General Obligation (G.O.) bonds for Alaska Student Loan Corporation. The net effect would be to lower the interest rate and make higher education more affordable for Alaskans. SJR 2 passed both chambers and the measure will be on the general election ballot in November.
The Military Code of Justice (HB 126) rewrite passed last night after midnight. Sexual assaults and problems at the top levels of the Alaska National Guard prompted Governor Bill Walker to address the issue with legislation. The bill would put more transparency in the judicial process and ensure that we have a strong National Guard presence in Alaska that lives up to the high reputation we expect.
Representative Kawasaki standing up for the University
As an ill-sighted way to fund a budget we have yet to pass, the Legislature passed SB 210, which would restructure the community revenue sharing program. Instead of solving the state’s deficit, this bill transfers the burden to local taxpayers and puts the state at risk of further economic damage and recession.
The budget conference committee also slashed the University of Alaska budget with a $50 million cut. As I wrote last week, UA President Jim Johnsen announced up to 500 jobs could be lost. This loss will be passed on to the students as well with fewer academic programs, larger class sizes and the largest tuition increase in the university’s 100-year history.
HB 156, a bill that would limit health education in schools and risk $100 million of federal education funding, has stalled on the House floor. I voted against this bill in House Finance and on the House floor. Now is not the time to risk our children’s future. Alaska’s schools need financial security and health education is an essential part of a well-rounded education.
Rep. Kawasaki in Finance committee listening to revenue options
The state is facing a $4.1 billion deficit and Republican leadership still has no plan in place to agree on a budget. While the Legislature has spent many hours in committee considering legislation that could save the state money and bring in new revenue, a comprehensive fiscal package is still a central focus of debate.
Since my update last week, there has been no movement on oil and gas tax credit reform. During times of fiscal restraint, it doesn’t make sense to spend $825 million in cash payments to the oil industry next year when we only bring in $68 million in production taxes. The generous credits Alaska pays out to Cook Inlet companies have been called a “subsidy” by our own legislative consultants. We should have a fair and stable tax credit system that rewards developing new oil online without placing nearly all the risk on the State of Alaska. I know there is no way I can support asking Alaskans to help pay for government through an income tax or PFD restructuring simply to give subsidies to profiting oil companies.
As the extended session moves forward, I’ll continue to be in touch about the issues important to you. Please feel free to contact me any time for updates or questions.
Working Hard for Fairbanks Families,
Representative Scott Kawasaki
Alaska State Representative
City of Fairbanks
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