EDITOR, Daily News:
On May 10, the Alaska State House of Representatives passed a state budget. On May 19, the Senate passed its version. Now, it is time for the two bodies to come together during a Conference Committee to negotiate the differences.
The House budget includes $5 million in funding for Pre-K grants, an Office of Children’s Services position for Wrangell, and funding for DIPAC and Crystal Lake hatcheries. The Senate version does not include the previously stated items. Unlike the House budget, it does include about a $2,300 dividend per each Alaskan.
Both budgets include funding for 18-month forward funding for the Alaska Marine Highway System, 100% of school bond debt reimbursement, public broadcasting, and funds to reopen the Wrangell Fish & Game office. Both budgets also include a slight increase to the University of Alaska over the cuts proposed by the governor’s compact in hopes of offsetting revenues lost during COVID-19.
The budget process was delayed this year primarily because the Legislature was waiting to learn guidelines for how the state can spend federal COVID relief funds. Both budgets heavily utilize funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. Those funds will be directed to communities to help avoid local tax hikes, the visitor industry to help summer businesses stay afloat, and small businesses and nonprofits to help offset lost revenue.
The Legislature has already begun a Special Session to finish work on the budget and the PFD. We still have a lot of work to do to address our structural deficit and figure out how exactly to pay for both an appropriate level of state services and a fair dividend. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the budget, don’t hesitate to contact me by email at Rep.Dan.Ortiz@AKLeg.gov or call my office.
REP. DAN ORTIZ
House District 36