Louise Stutes

Hello from Juneau! The Legislature is on Day 129 of what was supposed to be a 90-day session. You may be wondering what is taking so long.

In addition to finalizing the operating and capital budgets, the governor’s special session agenda includes the major legislation that creates his fiscal plan for eliminating the $3 billion deficit by 2019. There’s also a handful of additional bills held over from the regular session that address issues the governor feels are urgent.

We still have to pass a budget for the coming year, and a number of us have made it clear we won’t vote for a budget unless the Legislature also makes changes to the state’s overly-generous oil tax system.

If a compromise is not reached by June 1, state workers could start receiving layoff warning notices. If there is no budget by July 1, the state could face a government shutdown, which no one down in Juneau wants to see happen.

These are the pieces of Gov. Walker’s special session:

HB 247, Oil Tax Credits

Oil tax credits are one of our state’s largest expenditures and it’s not acceptable to be handing out substantial tax credits to oil companies when the state is making cuts across departments, including education, health and social services, and fish and game.

I was recently quoted in an article as saying, “I feel like we’re kind of being targeted (by the Republican Party) because we’re trying to work together as a group of legislators, we’re trying to do the job that we’re sent down here to do — and that means working with everyone that’s here, not just working with Republicans.” I stand by this statement. We are here to represent you, not big oil and not party interests.

HB 247 is in conference committee, as the House did not concur with the industry-friendly changes the Senate made to the version it sent over in mid-May. If the conference committee offers a version that continues to differ significantly from what 25 members of the House originally passed, it’s unlikely the bill will pass on the House floor.

 HB 256 and HB 257, Operating and Mental Health Budgets

The conference committee is negotiating differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. Their compromises play a part in adjourning, so it is likely their deliberations are being informed by ongoing talks between the minority and majority caucuses in the House.

SB 138, Capital Budget

This year’s capital budget is rather bare-bones in comparison to years past. The bill was passed by the Senate and is now with the House, where it was sent back to the Rules Committee to await a future date on the calendar.

HB 245, restructures the Alaska Permanent Fund to create an endowment to pay for essential government services while maintaining the PFD program with annual payouts to qualified Alaskans of around $1,000.

HB 4001 combines several revenue bills from the regular session. Administration officials presented the bill to the Finance Committee on Tuesday. Later in the week HB 4001 was partially dismantled, and four separate bills on the income tax (HB 4004), and mining (HB 4005), motor fuels (HB 4003), and fisheries (HB 4006) taxes were introduced.

HB 4006, Fisheries Taxes, was first seen in the House Fisheries Committee as HB251. I have concerns about parts of this bill and have asked House Finance to consider an amendment to keep the $3,000 CFEC interim-use permit cap in place. If this cap were removed some permits could go as high as $10,000. These elevated costs could have long-term ramifications that could affect our fishing fleet, as many boats have multiple captains and each would be required to purchase a permit.

NPFMC meeting in Kodiak

The council will meet the week of June 6 at the Kodiak Harbor Convention Center at 236 E. Rezanof Drive. I am glad we have local representation through Theresa Peterson. There were many good candidates coming out of our area and I was in favor of electing one of the Kodiak-based applicants. Kodiak is the second-largest seafood port in the state and having a voice on the council is an important means for us to maintain the economic vitality of our region. Alaska Airlines is offering travel discounts to Kodiak for meeting attendees. Details can be found at www.npfmc.org.

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