JUNEAU, AK – The 30th Alaska Legislature adjourned for the final time early Sunday morning, after passing priority legislation and a budget approving $4.8 billion for government services and capital projects.
Lawmakers agreed with many legislative and spending priorities proposed by Governor Bill Walker in December, passing the Governor’s most important legislative goals focused on building a safer, smarter, and stronger Alaska.
Stronger: The passage of SB 26 is a landmark achievement for the State of Alaska. Passing SB 26 closes the majority of Alaska’s deficit, and puts us on track toward a stable economy, new investments, and unprecedented opportunities on Alaska’s doorstep.
Safer: Investing more in public safety and passing elements of Governor Walker’s Public Safety Action Plan to improve the quality and fairness of Alaska’s justice system.
Smarter: Forward funding education, to give Alaska’s schools and teachers the resources and confidence they deserve, without fear of annual pink slips.
“Lawmakers in the House and Senate — Democrats, Republicans, and Independents — worked together to reach a budget compromise.” said Governor Bill Walker. “I commend the Legislature for passing a budget on time, and addressing the vast majority of the budget deficit. Steps taken during this administration have closed 80 percent of what was a $3.7 billion dollar deficit. Alaska has turned the corner.”
Key components of this year’s spending plan include:
- Permanent Fund Dividends. Each Alaskan will receive a $1,600 Permanent Fund dividend.
- Senate Bill 26. Dividends in 2018 and going forward are possible because of SB 26, which guarantees the longevity of the Permanent Fund and a robust dividend program by making sure draws from the fund are structured and sustainable. SB 26 reduces this year’s deficit from $2.4 billion to $700 million.
- Public safety funding. Legislators approved $27 million of the Governor’s public safety priorities, as well as $7 million for other public safety concerns. That means more prosecutors in Anchorage, Bethel, and Kotzebue, more frequent trooper travel to rural communities, a statewide drug prosecutor, dedicated investigators to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and more.
- Twenty-first century 911 services. Every Alaskan should be able to call 911 to get help, but the state’s outdated emergency response system leaves a huge portion of the state without 911 service. Governor Walker requested $9.5 million to modernize the system. Lawmakers approved $3.5 million to begin enhancing 911 services.
- Protecting Alaska’s schools. Parents and teachers deserve certainty that Alaska’s schools will be funded consistently each year. Teachers should not live in fear of receiving pink slips. Lawmakers approved a $20 million increase in school funding for the upcoming school year, forward funded education for the year after with a $30 million increase, and invested $19.5 million for improvement grants over the next several years.
- Elevating the University of Alaska. The Legislature invested $10 million into the university budget, to help prioritize programs and focus on what they do best: educating Alaskans.
- Re-paying debts, creating jobs. Legislators approved Governor Walker’s proposal to use bonds to pay oil tax credits owed to small oil and gas exploration companies. This clears old debts from our balance sheet immediately, and at a discount, creating savings for the state and allowing the companies to reinvest in new opportunities, putting Alaskans back to work.
- Senior benefits preserved. Legislators funded the Governor’s proposal to maintain the senior benefits program, which assists nearly 12,000 low-income elders and pioneers across Alaska.
SOURCE: news provided by GOV.ALASKA.GOV