Special Session Budget Compromise
Budget Compromise Averts Shutdown and Protects Economy
Rep. Kawasaki with AIDC and Senate colleagues considering budget proposals
On Tuesday, the Legislature passed a $4.6 billion operating budget, nearly $500 million less than last year and one of the smallest capital budgets in state history. Nearly $3.2 billion comes from the Constitutional Budget Reserve, the state’s savings account. The session now can be laser-focused on the revenue side of the equation, before our savings become depleted.
The deal restored nearly $3 million to early learning like Pre-K, Best Beginnings and Parents as Teachers that were originally eliminated. It also added back $35 million to the University of Alaska and $13 million of K-12 money that was cut on the last day of session. The budget also restored $600,000 for public television to sustain KUAC and other stations in the state.
Passing this budget compromise signals Alaska has a functional state government with all revenue and reform options still on the table. This budget deal protects 16,000 of our hard-working state employees from layoff notices and ensures things like road maintenance, construction projects and fire suppression are continued.
While it is a disappointment we still haven’t come to an agreement on revenue measures to sustain our fiscal future, this budget deal allows us to consider the components of a comprehensive fiscal plan. Let’s not play partisan politics with people’s livelihoods and do the job we were elected to do.
Legislature Cruises through Special Session Agenda
Rep. Kawasaki and Minority Leader Rep. Tuck at Press Conference
Governor Walker’s Proclamation put 12 bills on the call for the 4th Special Session that started last Monday.
On Tuesday, the Alaska Legislature passed HB 200 and HB 27, which reduce barriers for adoption and boost state efforts to find stable homes for children living in foster care. Alaska has the second highest per capita number of foster youth in the state. The bills are now heading to the Governor’s desk for signature.
HB 27, which I was proud to cosponsor, emphasizes the state’s responsibility for finding permanent placements for Alaska’s foster children and prioritizes placing them with relatives when possible. The bill would also make it a priority for children to stay in the same school through the end of the term when moving from one placement setting to another in the same municipality.
Sponsored by Governor Walker, HB 200 streamlines legal proceedings involving children in Alaska’s foster care system. The “one judge, one family” model will allow for more timely judicial decisions, helping foster children quickly return home or exit foster care through guardianship or adoption.
After consideration by the House Finance Committee last week, the House passed HB 374, an essential stop-gap measure to prevent health insurance premiums from increasing by 40% for the 23,000 Alaskans in the Alaska Comprehensive Health Insurance Association (ACHIA) program. This bill is now being heard in the Senate Finance Committee. The House Labor & Commerce Committee is also working through the details of the bill for survivor benefits for the family members of fallen firefighters and troopers. My colleagues and I in the committee also continue to work on mining, fisheries and motor fuel tax reforms.
Laser Focus on Revenues Needed!
Rep. Kawasaki in House Finance last week
Unless we find other sources of revenue, our savings account will be depleted in a short period of time, resulting in an inability of the state to provide services such as plowing roads, public safety or quality education. In order to continue to pay for state services, we will need stable sources of revenue.
As we move toward a comprehensive fiscal plan, we must first address the hundreds of millions of dollars a year our state spends on subsidies to oil and gas companies. We should have a fair and stable system that rewards developing new oil without placing nearly all the risk on the State of Alaska. I cannot ask Alaskans to help pay for government through an income tax or reducing PFDs simply to give subsidies to profiting oil companies.
As always, please feel free to contact me anytime if you have any questions about these bills or if there’s any way I can be of service to you.
Working Hard for Fairbanks Families,
Representative Scott Kawasaki
Alaska State Representative
City of Fairbanks
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