| June 2, 2016
Southeast Spotlight: budget passed and work ahead
We are now on day 11 of the special session, and the legislature has seen some activity, but there is still work to be done. Read on for an update on the operating budget, fiscal planning, and a heads-up on the upcoming interim.
This past Tuesday, the legislature reached an operating budget solution. The budget provides funding for critical state services that will keep our state functioning for the next year. Some of the items that were negotiated back into the budget were a return of the $50 increase in the Base Student Allocation (BSA) for our schools, an increase in funding for the University, funding for early childhood education (including Best Beginnings and Parents as Teachers). Funding was also restored to public broadcasting and community funding for the commercial passenger vessel tax. See below for a more complete list.
KEY: Education & early childhood, seniors and families, public safety, other
The budget calls for using funds from one of our main savings accounts, the Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR) fund, to cover costs for state services for the next fiscal year. At this time, it is anticipated that we will need to draw over $3.2 billion out of the CBR. This draw will put a great amount of negative pressure on our limited savings. Using the CBR requires three-quarters support in both the Senate and House, which means that members of my caucus, the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition, had to be on board in order to borrow from savings. Passing a budget is only one major task that needs to be completed before we complete our work during this special session.
Our work in Juneau is not yet finished. Funding state government is our primary responsibility, but in order to do that, we need to look at where the money comes from. To accomplish that, we still need to craft a fiscal plan that sets our state on a path towards sustainability. Recently, I wrote about the importance of a fiscal plan for the Juneau Empire opinion section. We have been fortunate that over the past 30 years, oil revenue has paid for around 90% of our state general fund budget, but at current oil prices, oil revenue now makes up just a little over 20% of our general fund budget. I appreciate all the feedback I’ve received and I look forward to hearing from you on these issues.
Once we finish our work in the special session, I will be traveling throughout the district to share updates, exchange news, and visit new sites and projects that have been launched, finished, or making progress. (I’m looking forward to next week’s Celebration in Juneau, and I am excited to visit the new Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center in Klukwan.) I hope to catch up with you during that time. In the meantime, please call email or write my office if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions.
My Juneau office is still in its temporary location at the Bill Ray Center, room 110. Once we get settled in our (semi-) permanent location for the interim (still TBD), we will post our regular open office hours.