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Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, poses for a headshot, in Juneau, AK Wednesday, January 24th, 2012. (AP Photo/Chris Miller)

Hello from Juneau. About five weeks remain until the legislature’s scheduled adjournment on April 16. The Fiscal Year 2018 budget is the major topic in the Capitol. With a $3 billion dollar budget gap, and revenue from oil production – which funds more than 85 percent of our budget – projected to remain low in the coming years, both legislative bodies are working diligently on the spending plan. 

This week, the House version of the budget, HB 57, heads to a floor vote. Upon its presumed passage and transmittal to the Senate, HB 57 will become the vehicle for the full Legislature’s budget. As was the case in the House, the Senate Finance Committee will take public testimony on the budget prior to it coming before a full vote of the Senate. If you have the time, I encourage you to take part in the process through the Legislative Information Office near you.

The Kodiak LIO can be reached at (907) 486-8116. 

District P survey

Although much debate remains before we adjourn, discussion is taking place on using income from the Permanent Fund to help balance the budget this year. Looking to the future, legislators are considering fiscal solutions involving a broad-based tax, like an income tax, utilization of Permanent Fund earnings, budget cuts and a cap on state spending.

To get a sense of what the constituents think about some of these issues, I sent out a short, non-scientific survey to my constituent e-mail list last week. 243 responses were received within the first two days of the survey. Here are the questions and preliminary results:

– To help balance the budget this year, the Legislature is considering using some earnings of the Permanent Fund, which will reduce the amount of your Permanent Fund Dividend. How do you feel about this?

60.42 percent support the use of Permanent Fund earnings to help balance the budget. 26.25 precent answered no to the question, with 13.33 percent saying they need more information before forming an opinion.

– Several bills involving the Permanent Fund have been introduced this year, including SB 78, which would set up a mechanism in the PFD application allowing applicants to use their dividend in a state lottery with proceeds split between the winners and an education endowment. How do you feel about this?

13.81 percent said they support this concept and would participate in a lottery. 0.42 percent said they would support and participate in a lottery if revenue went to fund other areas besides education. 53.56 percent do not support a lottery. 32.22 percent responded that they need to know more before forming an opinion.

You can find out more on SB 78 at: www.legis.state.ak.us/PDF/30/Bills/SB0078A.PDF

– Through HB 115, the House Finance Committee is proposing an income tax – 15 percent of your federal tax obligation – with Alaskans able to use their PFDs to pay their tax. With that in mind, are you receptive to this idea?

45.45 percent support the bill as written.  21.07 percent support an income tax at a lower percentage. 23.14 percent do not support an income tax. 10.33 percent responded that they need to know more before forming an opinion.

You can find out more on HB 115 at: www.legis.state.ak.us/PDF/30/Bills/HB0115A.PDF

– The Senate Finance Committee is sponsoring Senate Bill 70, which includes a clause limiting operating expenses to $4.1 billion dollars. What are your thoughts on a spending limit?

23.14 percent are in favor of limiting spending. 33.06 percent are in favor of limiting spending but would also like the government to be able to react to unforeseen circumstances that require additional spending. 23.97 percent opposed spending limits. 19.83 percent responded that they need to know more before forming an opinion.

The fifth question was open-ended, inviting responders to add anything they wished.

Thanks to all who took part in our first survey of the session.

Personal legislation update

I recently introduced SB 71, which will increase the limit by $100,000 on loans made to a borrower under the Division of Economic Development’s Commercial Fishing Revolving Loan Program. The idea behind the bill is to help more Alaskans get the financial assistance to grow a successful fishing business.

SB 71 has its initial hearing Thursday in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee. It has a further referral to the Senate Finance Committee.

SCR 7 is a companion resolution to the House Special Committee on Fisheries’ HCR 8. The resolution expresses strong legislative support of the University of Alaska’s Kodiak Marine and Seafood Science Center and its continuing operation. 

SCR 7 has been referred to the Senate Education Committee for initial consideration. It has a further referral to the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee.

On Feb. 23, the Senate Community and Regional Affairs voted to move SB 7 from the committee. The bill establishes a matching grant program within the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development for museum construction, expansion and major renovation projects, and repatriation of Alaska Native artifacts. Under terms of the bill, CCED would not do any work on these projects until it receives a legislative appropriation. SB 7 is awaiting a hearing by the Senate Finance Committee.

The Senate Labor and Commerce Committee passed SB 15 from committee on March 3. The idea behind the bill is to ban sales of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes and similar products to minors. SB 15 will be considered next by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I hope for a Senate State Affairs Committee hearing soon on SB 8. This bill is intended to give Alaska’s federally recognized tribal governments the ability to be part of the PFD Division’s popular Pick.Click.Give. program should they choose. 

PFD application closing soon

This year’s PFD application period ends on March 31. The easiest way to apply is through the PFD Division’s website at www.pfd.alaska.gov. If you are planning on mailing in your application, please send it by certified mail and request a return receipt to ensure your application’s receipt.

District P newsmakers

Congratulations to Dr. Larry LeDoux, who has been named the new superintendent of schools for the Kodiak Island Borough School District effective July 1. Dr. LeDoux is a lifelong Kodiak resident and previously served in the position before being appointed by Gov. Sarah Palin as the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development. 

Congratulations to the Nikolaesvk Lady Warriors and the Ninilchik Wolverines on winning their Peninsula Conference basketball titles. Both teams have earned the right to compete for their respective Class 1A state titles later this month in Anchorage.  

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