This has been an extremely productive year and I feel good about the work that we did on the budget. As the finance operating budget co-chair, my job was to pass out the constitutionally mandated FY15 operating budget which totals $9.1 billion, a reduction of 1.34 billion from the current year.
Non-formula agency operations, what most people think of as ‘state government’ operations, were reduced by $51.4 million in unrestricted general funds (UGF) from FY14, a 2.2 percent reduction. After many years of over 7 percent government growth, it is time to get our fiscal house in order. With annual deficits predicted for the upcoming years, we’ve got to prioritize our investments in state programs and focus on our essential state responsibilities. This budget continues down the path of fiscal responsibility. As part of that prioritization, the final operating budget included increases to keep the P/V Woldstad operating and home ported in Kodiak. The Capital budget included funds to complete the overhaul and upgrades necessary to keep the Woldstad patrolling our waters for years to come.
All in all, House District 35 fared very well in the capital budget this year. I worked hard with Senator Stevens to secure funding for the Cordova Center, emergency funding for the Ouzinkie Dam Mahoona Dam repairs, the Kodiak Area Native Association Facility Expansion and Renovation and the Pillar Creek Hatchery deferred maintenance among many other items. The gains in funds that we were able to secure will help our very large and diverse district sustain their infrastructure while also providing some opportunities for economic development and growth. HB 385: PERS/TRS State Contributions
Both the House and the Senate versions of HB 385 call for transferring $3 billion from the constitutional budget reserve to the retirement trust fund. The bill that we passed will transfer $2 billion into the Teachers' Retirement System and $1 billion into the Public Employees' Retirement System with annual subsequent payments of up to $500 million dollars. With this plan, the State will pay off the unfunded liability in 2039. This transfer significantly improves the health of the retirement trust fund and helps the active employees, retirees, beneficiaries, and dependents who rely on their pensions.
On Friday, April 25th, the Legislature came to an agreement on the omnibus education bill (HB278). With the passage of this bill, the BSA will increase by $150 and $50 each of the following years. Those increases will be accompanied by one-time grants of $42.95 million, $32.24 million and $19.94 million each year, respectively. These grants will be divided among Alaska school districts. The $100 million each year includes between $11 million and $12 million in added programs, so the effective amount of money going to districts to be used as they see fit falls between about $88 million and $90 million, annually.
HB 278 Highlights include:
Strengthens parental choice and student opportunities by increasing support for charter, residential, and correspondence schools, and vocational training;
Increases the base student allocation (BSA) over a three-year period and increases funding for other educational opportunities over three years;
Repeals the Alaska High School Graduation Qualifying Exam and replaces it with a student’s choice of the SAT, ACT or WorkKeys assessments;
Provides digital teaching opportunities;
Creates more opportunity for students to participate in the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP);
Allows students to test out of courses they have mastered and earn credits to apply toward graduation and the Alaska Performance Scholarship.
The Salmon and Herring Product Development Tax Credit passed the Alaska State Legislature late on Sunday night. With the passage of this bill, Alaska will see more in state value-added processing investments, revenue and jobs. If you have questions about this legislation, contact my staff Astrid Rose.
The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities will present the Tustumena Replacement Vessel Reconnaissance Report to the Kodiak community on May 21st in the Kodiak Public Library Multipurpose Room. The will provide teleconferencing capabilities for the villages of Port Lions, Ouzinkie, and Old Harbor. To participate by teleconference, dial 1-800-315-6338, conference code 3905#. An open house for meeting attendees will be held from 5-5:30 pm. The teleconference and presentation will begin at 5:30 pm. Participants are encouraged to review the report prior to the meeting. Time for questions will be provided immediately following the presentation. In addition to the public meetings, Alaska DOT&PF will accept public comments regarding the Tustumena Replacement Reconnaissance Report through May 30, 2014.
After serving six years on the Kodiak Borough Assembly, four years as the Fisheries Policy Advisor for Governor Murkowski, and fourteen years as the Representative and Senator for Kodiak, I am officially announcing that I will not seek reelection. I feel it is time to move on and I look forward to spending more time in Kodiak with family. I will continue to serve House District 35 until January. Because of the recent changes in redistricting, next year Kodiak, Cordova, Yakutat, Aleneva, Beluga, Chenega, Halibut Cove, Nanwalek, Port Graham, Tatitlek, and Tyonek will be part of House District 32. I would like to thank all of you who have been supportive over the years. It has been a pleasure serving you. My staff and I will continue to be in the Kodiak office until the end of the year. Please don’t hesitate to call or stop by.
Contact information for interim: 305 Center Street Kodiak, AK 99615 907-486-2487 1-800-865-2487