We have had some big accomplishments in the last few days including passing military justice reform and Medicaid reform. These are both comprehensive reform bills that garnered bipartisan support. However, there are still major issues outstanding before the legislature, and no clear path forward. Before I get into these topics I have a quick request:
Still Up in the Air
The operating and capital budgets, criminal justice system reform, oil and gas tax credit reform, an income tax, broad-based taxes, and restructuring the Permanent Fund are all still up in the air. The legislature must address each of these to resolve our dire fiscal situation.
Operating and Capital Budgets
The operating budget funds day-to-day functioning of the state government. Things like fish and game, education formula funding, state troopers, and public health are all provided for in this budget. The capital budget funds various state projects and allows the state to designate federal funds for roads, schools and other major improvements throughout the state. The capital budget used to be in the billions of dollars back when oil prices were higher. However, with limited dollars it is forecast to utilize very few general funds, and those funds are typically used for matching funds in order to qualify for federal grants for roads, and other infrastructure projects.
Criminal Justice Reform
Criminal justice system reform is a multi-year project of the legislature, the governor, and the court system. Its goal is to reduce the re-offending rate for Alaskans that are released from prison, which will save the state money and reduce crime. Right now, two-thirds of prisoners that are released from Alaska’s prisons end up back in the corrections system within three years. Alaska must reform our justice system in order to improve this reoffending rate, save the state millions of dollars, and reduce crime. This bill is currently in the House Finance Committee.
Oil and Gas Tax Credits
One of the major sticking points between the Republican led majority and the Independent Democratic Coalition is the hundreds of millions of dollars in Oil and Gas tax credits. We simply cannot afford these subsidies at a time when we are facing a $4.1 billion deficit and are on the verge of asking working Alaskans to consider new taxes and a reduced PFD. Unfortunately, the Republican led majority has not come to the same conclusion and are currently holding the legislation in the House Rules Committee.
The House Finance Committee is currently considering both an income tax proposal and a bill to restructure the Permanent Fund. I encourage you to follow these bills via the legislature’s BASIS website, and Gavel-to-Gavel coverage on TV and online.
Once again, if you have not already done so, please complete the constituent survey!
If you have any specific concerns or ideas, I encourage you to send me a quick email. I am working for you!