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First Session of 30th Alaska State Legislature

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Alaska State Legislature, House District 31

From the Desk of Representative Seaton:
June 5, 2017  Vol. 229

Greetings from Juneau on this the 19th day of the first special session of the 30th Legislature.  I and the House Majority Coalition continue to work toward a fully funded budget and complete, sustainable fiscal solution to our state’s declining revenue.  Our goal is near-future balanced budgets that can move our state out of recession to a thriving economy.
 
Last week, the Governor was obligated to send out layoff notices to more than 18,000 state employees.  The layoffs will take effect and all non-essential state services will be shut down if a budget is not passed before the start of the fiscal year on July 1st.  The House Majority Coalition believes this is not an acceptable outcome.  The House Coalition has put forth our complete fiscal plan and are committed to discussions, negotiations and compromise to reach this goal before July 1st.  For a non-partisan look at why a complete, sustainable plan is in the best interest for Alaskans, read Gunnar Knapp’s article (Mr. Knapp is the former director of UAA’s Institute of Social and Economic Research).
 
There has been some public spin recently that a broad-based tax is not needed and the only reason we are asking for one is because the House wants to far outspend the Senate.  I appreciated your calls last week on both sides of these issues.  Our House Finance Committee requested from the Office of Management and Budget a clarification on the differences between the Governor’s budget proposal and the Senate’s.  When the Senate’s $288 million payment for oil and gas tax credits is included in their budget, OMB calculates that the Senate is spending $79.6 million more than the Governor’s proposed budget.
 
Here is what OMB has determined: One-time cuts in the FY2018 Senate budget will cause cost increases in the next year’s FY2019 budget as follows
  • The Senate’s FY18 depletion of the Marine Highway Fund Balance in order to lower general fund spending on a one-time basis.  Because this funding will need to be replaced, this will cause an increase in the FY2019 budget ($44.0 million)
  • Senate’s FY18 funding of a portion of the K-12 education formula costs with a one-time $17.0 million re-appropriation of the U-Med highway project remaining balance will result in an increase in the FY2019 budget ($17.0 million)
  • Senate’s FY18 short-funding of Medicaid without changing the statute will necessitate a supplemental budget request in the next session (2018) because the Department of Health and Social Services is still legally obligated to provide the services even if short-funded ($32.5 million)
  • Projected Medicaid eligibility increases will impact the FY19 budget ($30.0 million, in addition to the FY18 shortfall)
  • A portion of FY18 PERS/TRS costs were funded by the Senate through one-time Higher Education Funds (DGF) that will not be available in the next budget cycle ($58.3 million)
  • The Senate capital budget makes significant use of one-time re-appropriations of past project balances ($74.1 million). 
Total Appropriations – SLA 2017
  Governor Senate Difference
FY2018 Budget $5,056,000,000 $4,820,800,000 ($235,200,000)
FY2017 Supplemental      $64,100,000    $378,900,000  $314,800,000
Total $5,120,100,000 $5,199,700,000     $79,600,000
 
The Senate Majority’s operating budget and fiscal plan are only a partial solution and rely too heavily on cutting programs that help children, seniors and low-income Alaskans while subsidizing the oil industry by transferring $288 million from our Statutory Budget Reserve savings account to pay tax credits.  We are not obligated to pay those credits at this time as they carry zero interest and can be used against future taxes.  When you add that on top of the $77 million they already included for oil tax credit payment, the Senate would be giving $1 million per day to oil companies over the next year while cutting $70 million from K-12 schools.  The Senate’s plan also does not raise any new revenue and relies on volatile oil prices in the hope they will rise again.
 
U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Zinke’s directive last week for Interior agencies to review management and leasing in NPR-A and ANWR may increase through-put in the pipeline, and that’s good news.  Any additional revenue from oil will be a benefit to the state.  However, oil revenue from potential future production would not be realized for many years, so we cannot count on any related revenue in the near-term to solve our immediate fiscal shortfall.  More importantly, the House Majority is seeking to stabilize our budget by reducing our reliance on a single volatile resource (oil).  To do this we need to make structural changes now (through SB 26 in combination with a broad based tax) in order to have stability now and in the future.
 
The Senate’s plan depletes our savings which could jeopardize our ability to pay a PFD in the future.  It includes continued budget reductions over the next several years that would result in greater losses of private and public sector jobs.  Would you settle for this when there is an alternative fiscal solution available that can fully fund the budget this year and into the future?  Click here to take a short one minute survey, a replica of the Senate Majority survey sent out in January, to share your current views.
 
I understand compromise will be necessary in order for us to get our work completed.  I am open to considering another broad-based tax besides an income tax, or even changing tax brackets within the income tax bill that the House passed.  Whatever solution we agree to will need to provide a complete fix and not include budget cuts to education or future cuts to Alaskans’ PFDs.  The governor recently sent out a press release stating he would be introducing a compromise package this week.  I anticipate our House Finance Committee will schedule hearings on bills from the package this week.  We will share this information in an extra update newsletter once the information becomes available to us.  
 
Some of you also called this past week to ask why more Conference Committee meetings on the operating budget have not taken place.  Part of the reason lies in the fact we were waiting on the House Minority to provide us with their list of budget priorities.  Our negotiations with the Senate Majority could result in the need for a super majority vote for the operating bill effective date (so it can go into effect by July 1 versus waiting 90 days) and possibly to access the Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR).  Not knowing the Minority’s budget priorities, it’s difficult for us to negotiate with the Senate.  I personally requested this information from the Minority Leader and the Minority Finance Leader and also publicly requested it on the House Floor, but heard nothing back for several weeks.  Last Friday, for the first time, the House Minority Leader stated on the House Floor that her caucus’ Finance Leader would only share their budget priorities during a formal Conference Committee meeting.  I appreciated finally getting a response from the Minority so we can now move forward with scheduling meetings.  However, not knowing what the minority’s priorities are prior to a formal meeting makes it impossible to consider their items during informal talks with the Senate.  I will rely on the House Minority’s communication with the Senate Republican Majority to incorporate their minority budget priorities during informal talks.  The second conference committee meeting is now scheduled for Tuesday.
 
Thank you for taking time to contact my office and other legislators and for engaging in the process.
 
Together a Broad-Based Tax, House CS-SB26 Permanent Fund Protection Plan, and HB111 Oil & Gas Production Taxes & Credits, along with sensible budget cuts, make up the Alaska House Majority Coalition’s complete, comprehensive and sustainable fiscal plan.  Your testimony, phone calls and emails are helping to shape the Coalition’s four-pillar plan which fully funds and balances our state budgets within 3 years. Contact the Senate Majority members:
District 31 email: Sen.Gary.Stevens@akleg.gov For other districts click here
  • Broad-Based Tax:  Email your Senator and get their commitment to include a broad-based tax as part of the fiscal solution this year.
  • House CS-SB26 Permanent Fund Protection Plan:  Email your Senator and request their support for an equitable plan which balances out the PFD regressive reductions with a progressive broad-based tax.
  • HB111:  Email your Senator and ask them to restore the bill to the House version. 
More resources are on my website or call my office if you have more questions.
For more resources on the budget and economy click here.
 
Click here to listen to my legislative report on KBBI last week.
 
Operating & Capital Budgets

Operating Budget
A conference committee has been scheduled for this Tuesday.  I anticipate additional meetings being scheduled later this week.  You can check the schedule on BASIS or sign up for bill tracking for HB57 and receive email updates.
 
Capital Budget
There has been no change to the status of the capital budget bill, SB 23.  As I mentioned last week, the capital budget is generally the very last appropriation bill to be finalized and passed.  This is because the capital budget also includes the supplemental bill along with last minute technical fixes and operating changes that might be needed.  (However, I do not intend to support the Senate depletion of our entire Statutory Budget Reserve account to give that $288 million to the oil companies.)
 
FY18 Budget & District 31
There are no changes to the operating and capital budget summaries from several weeks ago: click here for House Operating -- Senate Operating -- Senate Capital.  These summaries reflect some of the items in each budget that district constituents often contact my office about.  If you have additional questions, contact my staff Jenny. 
 
In January, the Senate Republican Majority polled Alaskans on K12 education funding, broad-based taxes, and adjusting oil company tax credits. Those results showed Alaskans favor a comprehensive fiscal plan that includes reducing tax credits for the oil and gas industry, a broad-based tax, and continuing to fully fund K12 education.
 
By April, the House Majority Coalition passed their entire fiscal plan including budget cuts, a guaranteed PFD, income tax, full funding for K12 education, and adjustments to oil company taxes/credits.
 
Now, as the Special Session begins, we are curious to know where public opinion stands.  Please take a minute to complete the survey.  There are only 10 short questions which are identical to the ones sent out in January.
 

Click here to take the new survey.
Click here to review the January survey results.
 
Here are links to calculators to let you get a rough idea of possible impacts on your own household:

Household cost of Senate Majority PFD cap.
Household cost of House Majority Income Tax. 
 
Thank you for taking a few minutes to take the survey. 

Rep. Paul Seaton

Thanks for signing up for my newsletter and engaging in the public process. I try every week to keep you abreast of issues and bills discussed at the committee level, where YOU have an opportunity to participate.

 


Public Testimony Opportunities
Due to the 24 Hr. Rule being in effect, please contact the Homer or Kenai LIOs noted below for more information.

Public testimony (when scheduled) can be given in person at your LIO or call (907) 465-4648 prior to the meeting for a phone option.  Written Comments are best addressed to the chair of the committee where the bill is being heard.  If you are interested in a public testimony meeting that is not listed above please call the Kenai LIO 283-2030 or Homer LIO 235-7878.  For a full list of all upcoming meetings, please visit the Alaska State Legislature’s webpage at akleg.gov
 
Reminder:  The Homer LIO transitioned from a full time office to "open as needed".  Phone and email messages will be checked frequently.  The office will open for teleconferences that the community wants to participate in if they have at least one day's prior notice.  If questions, contact Amber at the Homer LIO:  235-7878  LIO.Homer@akleg.gov.  The Kenai LIO remains open full time, year round:  283-2030 LIO.Kenai@akleg.gov.
Following Bills & Committees
Access bills and committee schedules through the Legislature’s BASIS home page.  Get automatic alerts when a bill is scheduled for hearing or public testimony by signing up for “Track Bills in BTMF”.  Most committee hearings are broadcast on Gavel-to-Gavel at www.360north or through the Live Now tab on the BASIS home page. 
 
NEW!  "Chat with Legislative Information Staff
Monday-Friday between 8:30am and 4pm you will find a new chat interface in the lower right corner of AKLeg.gov. The LIO staff can help answer questions about finding things on the website, answer questions relating to tracking legislation and help you get in touch with your legislator. Let us know how we can help you!
 
Legislative Information Offices (LIO)Our Homer and Kenai LIOs are a great resource for tracking bills and participating in hearings.
 
Homer: Amber Corey 235-7878, 270 West Pioneer Avenue
Kenai: Mary Bea Byrne 283-2030, 145 Main St Loop, Suite 217
 
POMs Email is the preferred method of communication for our office.  POMS is currently operational but may experience a delay in reaching our office.  If needed, contact your local LIO office who can email us your comments.
Many of you continue to contact my office in support of education funding.  I and the House Majority Coalition fully funded K-12 education, early childhood education and pupil transportation in the House version of the operating budget and we will negotiate for education funding with the Senate.  As I shared last week, there were 15 Senate Majority members who voted to include a 5.7% cut to education (about $70 million) in the Senate’s version of the operating budget.  If you support fully funding education, it’s important to contact all 15 members of the Senate Majority, not just the two on the Conference Committee.  Share your concerns and give security back to our school districts by asking them to abandon their targeted cut to K-12 education through a ‘Sense of the Senate' floor vote just like they did to abandon another cut which would have closed the Palmer and Juneau Pioneer Homes.  Contact the Senate Majority members at akleg.gov/senate.
 
 
Bits & Pieces

Homer Pioneer Ave Pavement Preservation Open House
Tuesday 6-9pm June 6 at Homer City Hall.  Questions: 866-535-1877 christina.huber@alaska.gov  269-0572
 
REAL ID Questions?
Click the above link for FAQ sheet.  The state has requested another waiver which we anticipate will be approved through Oct 2020.  Once we get the waiver extension, an Alaska driver’s license will allow Alaskans on all military bases and enable Alaskans to fly until 2020.  REAL IDs and REAL ID driver’s licenses will be issued in Alaska starting January 2019.
 
Public Comment: license fee changes for Professional Counselors
The Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development is accepting public comments on proposed occupational license fee changes for professional counselors. Deadline to comment: 5pm June 30. Email to: regulationsandpuliccomment@alaska.gov  465-2537


Public meetings scheduled on Kasilof River area projects – June 14 Soldotna
Department of Natural Resources has scheduled public meetings to discuss facility improvement projects along the Kasilof River.  Soldotna:  6:30 to 8:30 pm June 14 in the Community Room of the Joyce K. Carver Memorial Public Library.  Anchorage: 6:30 to 8:30 pm, June 15 Room 102 of the Atwood Building. Topics will include: Kasilof River North Side Improvement Project, Kasilof River South Side Improvement Project, and Old Kasilof Landing Site Development Project.  For information http://dnr.alaska.gov/mlw/kasilof/ or 269-8116  christianna.colles@alaska.gov.    For information on the Old Kasilof Landing project, go to http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/kasilof/kasilofboatretrieval.htm

Contact Us

If you would like to speak to me regarding a specific issue, it is helpful to first get in touch with the member of my staff handling related issues. 

Homer: May-December
270 W. Pioneer Ave., Homer AK 99603
907-235-2921 or 1-800-665-2689; Fax: 907-235-4008

Juneau: January-April
State Capitol – 120 4th St., Juneau, AK 99801
New location: Room 505
907-465-2689 or 1-800-665-2689; fax: 907-465-3472

Kenai: 907-283-9170 (will transfer automatically to Homer or Juneau)

Rep. Paul Seaton Rep.Paul.Seaton@akleg.gov
website:  http://akhouse.org/rep_seaton/

Jenny Martin Jenny.Martin@akleg.gov
Constituent issues and questions, General Capital & Operating Budget information,CAPSIS requests, Personal Legislation

Taneeka Hansen Taneeka.Hansen@akleg.gov
Legislation & Sustainable Fiscal Plans in House Finance, Personal Legislation
 
Joan Brown Joan.Brown@akleg.gov
Operating Budget, Finance Subcommittees
 
Arnold Liebelt Arnold.Liebelt@akleg.gov
Operating Budget, Finance Subcommittees
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Rep. Seaton's Session Contact Information:
 

Mailing Address:
State Capitol - 120 4th Street,
Juneau, Alaska 99801
Phone: (907) 465-2689
Toll-free: 1-800-665-2689
Fax: (907) 465-3472
email: Rep.Paul.Seaton@akleg.gov

http://akhouse.org/rep_seaton/

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