The Capitol Report
February 28, 2014
The Capitol Report
By Chris Christensen
Associate Vice President for State Relations
Today is the 39th day of the legislative session, and the House’s University Budget Subcommittee finished its work earlier this week.
As most of you know, there has been a dramatic reduction in oil revenues received by the state. Between FY13 and FY15, the state’s unrestricted general fund revenues are projected to decline from $6.9 billion to $4.5 billion, a 35 percent reduction. This decline means that during the current fiscal year, FY14, the state will run an estimated $2 billion deficit.
Governor Parnell’s budget proposed that the state spend 18.4 percent less in general fund dollars than it is spending during the current year. For the university operating budget, the governor proposed a $14.9 million unallocated reduction from the current year’s funding level, but he also proposed adding $5.3 million to partially cover new expenses, such as the scheduled employee pay raises and operating costs for new buildings that are due to open this year. UA’s net cut in the governor’s operating budget was $9.6 million below the FY14 level. www.alaska.edu/files/state/FY15-Budget-Data-Summary-Final.pdf
The House leadership has made it clear this session that the governor’s budget would be further reduced before it was passed and sent to the Senate. It was therefore no surprise that the House’s University Budget Subcommittee took the governor’s proposed budget and reduced it an additional $1 million, for a total unallocated reduction from the current year of $15.9 million. The subcommittee also adopted the governor’s proposal for adding $5.3 million in new money to cover a portion of our increased expenses
The budget will now be sent to the full House Finance Committee for further action. The committee could adopt the subcommittee’s proposal, add to it, or reduce it further.
What This Budget Does:
The university will have approximately $12.5 million in fixed cost increases in FY14 that are not funded by this proposal. These include UA’s share of the salary increases (one-half of those increases, or approximately $5.1 million), and UA’s share of other fixed cost increases such as utility cost increases, facility maintenance and repair, and new facility operating costs ($7.4 million). The university will need to cover these costs by increasing revenues or reallocating resources. The $15.9 million unallocated reduction mentioned above will also have to be covered by increasing revenues or reallocating resources. That is a total of $28.4 million that must be covered next year by increasing revenues or reallocating existing resources.
In addition, this proposed budget does not fund virtually any of the new high demand programs that were proposed in the Board of Regents’ budget, such as Mandatory Comprehensive Student Advising, UAF’s veterinary program, or AHEC funding. The only one funded is the salary for the Director of the UAS Center for Mine Training. You can find a complete list of the programs not in the budget here on page 6: http://www.alaska.edu/files/state/Redbook-Final.pdf
While this budget proposal is disappointing, it is not surprising in light of the state’s revenue picture, and the concerns about budget sustainability that have been expressed repeatedly by members of the House majority. It should be noted that there were proposals behind the scenes to reduce UA’s budget substantially more, and the subcommittee did not adopt those.
The House Finance Committee is going to take statewide public testimony on the operating budget at local Legislative Information Offices on Tuesday, March 4 and Wednesday, March 5. This is the annual opportunity for advocates to have their voices heard.
You will be asked to identify yourself, including your name, affiliation, and legislative district. The latter gets your legislator’s attention if he or she is at the table. You will have only two minutes to convey your message.
Legislators are not so much interested in the financial details of the budget request as they are to hear your story. Tell them what program initiatives or other issues you are supporting and why, and how they will benefit the state. Talk about personal experiences that demonstrate the value of a program. At the end of your testimony, be sure to thank the legislators for their time and ask for their support of your request.
The budget is not yet finalized in the House Finance Committee, and there still could be additions. However, keep in mind that it is also possible that there could be further cuts.
Here is the schedule:
Tuesday, March 4
1:30 - 2:45 p.m. Juneau
3:00 - 4:00 p.m. Bethel, Cordova, Kotzebue, Nome, Valdez, Wrangell, and Offnet sites
4:15 - 5:45 p.m. Anchorage
Wednesday, March 5
1:30 - 2:30 p.m. Barrow, Dillingham, Fairbanks
3:00 - 4:15 p.m. Sitka, Petersburg, Delta Junction, Unalaska, Glennallen, Tok
4:30 - 5:45 p.m. Homer, Kenai, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Mat-Su, Seward
-Public testimony limited to 2 minutes each.
-Please arrive 15 minutes prior to the end of the allotted time or
testimony will close early.
-If you are calling as an Offnet caller, only call during the designated Offnet time slot.
House Finance Committee members and alternate members are:
Representative Alan Austerman, Co-Chair, (R) Kodiak
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=AUS&house=H&session=28 )
Representative Bill Stoltze, Co-Chair, (R) Chugiak
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=STZ&house=H&session=28 )
Representative Mark Neuman, Vice-Chair, (R) Big Lake
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=NEU&house=H&session=28 )
Representative Mia Costello, (R) Anchorage
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=COS&house=H&session=28 )
Representative Lindsey Holmes, (R) Anchorage
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=HOL&house=H&session=28 )
Representative Cathy Munoz, (R) Juneau
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=MUN&house=H&session=28 )
Representative Steve Thompson, (R) Fairbanks
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=THP&house=H&session=28 )
Representative Tammie Wilson, (R) North Pole
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=WLT&house=H&session=28 )
Representative Bryce Edgmon, (D) Dillingham
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=EDG&house=H&session=28 )
Representative Les Gara, (D) Anchorage (minority member)
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=GAR&house=H&session=28 )
Representative David Guttenberg, (D) Fairbanks (minority member)
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=GTT&house=H&session=28 )
Representative Mike Hawker, (R) Anchorage (alternate member)
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=HAW&house=H&session=28 )
Representative Scott Kawasaki, (D) Fairbanks (minority alternate member)
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=KAW&house=H&session=28 )
Once it is finished with public testimony, the House Finance Committee will take the comments it received under consideration and close out the state operating budget during the week of March 10. Shortly thereafter, the operating budget will be sent to the full House for a vote.
After the budget passes the House, we will do this all over again in the Senate, and then the House and Senate versions of the budget will be reconciled in a conference committee. The Senate will actually begin its subcommittee work on UA’s operating budget on Tuesday, March 4 at 7:30 a.m., before it receives the final version of the House budget.
SB 176, which takes away most of the Board of Regents' authority to regulate the possession of firearms on campus, has been scheduled for two hearings next week. The bill authorizes both open carry and concealed carry of firearms any place on campus, with a few exceptions. The primary exception is that the Board of Regents may prohibit possession in "restricted access areas," which the bill defines as areas beyond a secure point where visitors are screened. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear the bill on Monday, March 3 from 1:30 - 3:00 p.m., and it will hear the bill again on Wednesday, March 5 from 1:30 - 3:00 p.m.
You can find more information about SB 176 at
An identical House Bill was introduced last Friday. HB 335, sponsored by Representative Gabrielle LeDoux, has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. It has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. You can follow this bill at http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=HB%20335&session=28
Thank you for all your work to promote and support the University of Alaska!
For more information, contact Associate Vice President Chris
Christensen at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit
February 24, 2014
Today is the 35th day of the legislative session, and the House’s University Budget Subcommittee is almost done with its work. Last Tuesday, the subcommittee held its third hearing and took testimony on a number of topics. Chancellor Brian Rogers was invited to speak about the need to upgrade UAF’s combined heat and power plant, and the subcommittee spent the largest block of time on that issue. The Board of Regents requested $245 million for this project ($195 million in general funds, and authorization for $50 million in UA revenue bonds). Unfortunately, the governor did not include any funds for the upgrade in his capital budget, and it is a difficult year for the legislature to add that much additional money for one project to the budget. Many of the questions posed by legislators involved finding other ways to finance the project.
In addition to Chancellor Rogers, the subcommittee heard Dr. Helena Wisniewski, UAA Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies, and Dr. Dan White, UAF Associate Vice Chancellor for Research, talk about the efforts of UAA and UAF to incentivize and commercialize research and innovation on campus. Subcommittee members were surprised and pleased to learn that UAA and UAF are making a concerted effort to take research with economic potential and find ways to market it and generate income for the researchers and for the university.
Finally, the subcommittee heard from Ro Bailey, the Deputy Director of the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration, on UA’s work with unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The legislature provided a $5 million capital appropriation to the center two years ago, and this investment paid off when the FAA chose UA to operate one of six UAS research and test sites across the country. The economic potential is considerable.
At 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25, the subcommittee will have its final hearing and make a budget recommendation to the House Finance Committee. As you have probably heard, the governor submitted a UA budget that has a substantial reduction from the current year, and we anticipate that this austere budget will be further reduced in the House.
The House Finance Committee has released its schedule for completing work on the operating budget. The key dates are as follows:
Budget subcommittees must finish their work by Friday, Feb. 28 (as notedabove, UA’s subcommittee is scheduled to finish its work on Feb. 25)
Statewide public testimony will be taken on the budget on March 4 and 5.
The committee will meet to finalize the budget on March 11, and it will go to the House floor for passage the following week.
Critical dates for UA advocacy are March 4 and 5, when the House Finance Committee takes public testimony in Juneau and by statewide teleconference.
How does this teleconference work?
Notice will be posted on the legislature’s committee hearing calendar as to the times that the House Finance Committee will be taking public testimony. Typically, time is allotted for Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, rural, and offnet sites throughout the day. The public is invited to attend these meetings at their local legislative information office (http://w3.legis.state.ak.us/misc/lios.php) where they can sign up to present their testimony.
Once the committee receives the roster of speakers, they will call upon each person to come to the table to give a two-minute presentation. They are serious about this time constraint.
Note: We will send out a notice to all list serve members as soon as the times are posted. We will also post it on the UA State Relations webpage (http://www.alaska.edu/state).
What if you can’t make it to the hearing?
House Finance Committee members will also accept written testimony sent by mail, email or fax. It’s also a great idea to copy your own legislators so they know what you are supporting.
Why is this hearing important?
Legislators WANT to hear from their constituents. They will be listening intently and taking notes on what is said and what budget items have the most support. The more university advocates who show up to testify on the budget, the better.
We will have more information on this in the near future.
A piece of legislation of great interest to the UA community was introduced last week. SB 176, sponsored by Senator John Coghill, takes away most of the Board of Regents’ authority to regulate the possession of firearms on campus. The bill authorizes both open carry and concealed carry of firearms any place on campus, with a few exceptions. The primary exception is that the Board of Regents may prohibit possession in “restricted access areas,” which the bill defines as areas beyond a secure point where visitors are screened. The bill has been referred only to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and has tentatively been scheduled for its first hearing on Monday, March 3 from 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. President Gamble will testify. The members of the Judiciary Committee are:
Senator John Coghill, Chair
Senator Lesil McGuire, Vice Chair
Senator Fred Dyson
Senator Donald Olson
Senator Bill Wielechowski
You can find more information about SB 176 at http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=SB%20176&session=28
Also introduced last week was HB 306 by Representative Steve Thompson. Among other things, this bill will repeal the Education Tax Credit by June 30, 2016, along with all other indirect tax credits provided by the state. These tax credits cost the state lost revenue, and the bill provides a mechanism for their periodic sunset and review so that the credits can be reenacted if the legislature decides they still have value to the state. There will be a hearing on HB 306 in the House Finance Committee on Thursday, Feb. 27 at 1:30 p.m.
You can find more information about HB 306 at http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=HB%20306&session=28
Watch Gavel to Gavel (www.360north.org ) to view these and other hearings.
For more information, contact Chris Christensen at
email@example.com or visit www.alaska.edu/state .
February 14, 2014
Today is the 25th day of the legislative session, and the operating budget review process in the House is in full swing. Last week, President Gamble appeared before the House Finance Committee to provide an overview of the university system, including its mission, core services, and priorities; challenges and pressing issues; Shaping Alaska’s Future; and various other matters. He also discussed the FY15 UA operating budget that the governor submitted to the legislature.
Immediately following that meeting, President Gamble testified before the House’s University Budget Subcommittee, offering a similar overview of the system, and a more detailed look at the differences between the budget proposed by the Board of Regents, and the one submitted by the governor. The subcommittee will do the detail work on the university’s budget, and then send a recommendation to the House Finance Committee. A second subcommittee hearing was held earlier this week. Legislative Finance Director David Teal, UA Budget Director Michelle Rizk, and I were asked to respond to a variety of questions about the budget and other areas of interest to subcommittee members.
The subcommittee process in the House will conclude in late February, and then the full House Finance Committee will take up the budget. Representative Alan Austerman, the Co-Chair of the House Finance Committee, told the press last week that the House’s version of the operating budget will probably include less general fund money for agency operations than the budget proposed by the governor. This is disappointing news, since the governor’s budget for the university already proposed a substantial cut.
Student Regent Courtney Enright appeared at a confirmation hearing before the House Education Committee on Wednesday, so that the committee could review her qualifications and ask her questions. Members of the Board of Regents are appointed by the governor and must have their appointments confirmed by a majority of the legislature in joint session. Regent Enright will have a similar hearing in the Senate Education Committee sometime later this session. The confirmation vote normally takes place during the final week of the session.
Also on Wednesday, Director Gwen Holdmann and Dr. Jeremy Kasper of UAF’s Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) held a “Lunch and Learn” in the Capitol Building. The Lunch and Learn is a 60-minute presentation made during the lunch hour that is used by the university and other organizations to provide information on topics of interest to legislators and staff. Food is provided, and presentations are popular and well attended. Holdmann and Kasper spoke on “Hydrokinetics – Energy Options for Alaska’s Communities.”
Two bills of interest were heard in committee this week: HB 255, which authorizes a UA training program for unmanned aircraft operators and places certain restrictions on the use of drone aircraft by law enforcement agencies, had a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. HB 271 had its first hearing in the House Transportation Committee. That bill proposes to give UAF a special appropriation of $2,000,000 to study the feasibility of a railroad link between Fairbanks and Deadhorse.
Hearings Next Week:
On Tuesday, Feb. 18, The Senate Finance Committee will hear President Gamble provide an overview of the university’s capital budget at 9 a.m. His presentation will include a discussion of those items that are in the Board of Regents’ request, but were not included by the governor in his capital budget bill.
Also on Tuesday, the House Economic Development, Trade, and Tourism Committee will meet at 11:15 a.m. to hearDr. Helena Wisniewski, UAA Vice Provost for Research & Graduate Studies, talk about "Innovation Clusters & Economic Growth,” and Dr. Dan White, UAF Associate Vice Chancellor for Research, speak on "Commercializing UAF Innovation, a Win-Win for Alaska."
On Tuesday afternoon, the university will have its third House Budget Subcommittee hearing at 3 p.m. Chancellor Brian Rogers has been invited to speak about UAF’s combined heat and power plant upgrade and various other budget issues. Dr. Wizniewski and Dr. White will talk again on the topics listed in the preceding paragraph, and there will be a discussion of research projects and UAF’s work on unmanned aircraft systems.
On Wednesday, Feb. 19, there will be a joint meeting of the House and Senate Education Committees at 8 a.m. The members will hear a presentation from Dr. Diane Hirshberg and others on the activities and research of the Center for Alaska Education Policy Research (CAEPR) and Alaska State Policy Research Alliance (ASPRA).
Other Activities Next Week:
There will be a Lunch and Learn on Tuesday at noon. The topic is “Digital Aerial Mapping of Alaska’s Resources.” Dr. Mark Meyers, the UAF Vice Chancellor for Research, and Dayne Broderson, the Technical Services Manager at the Geographic Information Network of Alaska (GINA), will be the presenters.
Watch Gavel to Gavel ( www.360north.org ) to view these and other hearings.
January 31, 2014
Today is the 11th day of the Second Session of the 28th Alaska State Legislature. The session is scheduled to end in 79 days, on April 20.
The length of regular sessions was shortened from 121 days to 90 days in 2008. There is a lot of work to get done in only 90 days, and the shorter sessions mean that legislators have less time to meet with constituents and less time to deliberate on the budgets and on the bills in committee. Committees start working at full speed during the first week.
The House Finance Committee and its budget subcommittees will be reviewing the governor’s FY15 operating budget over the next five or six weeks. The work should be finished by early March, and then the budget will head to the House floor for a vote.
A budget subcommittee will do the detailed review work on the university’s budget and send a recommendation back to the full Finance Committee. The subcommittee is composed of two House Finance Committee members (Cathy Muņoz and David Guttenberg), and five legislators who are not members of the Finance Committee. Our subcommittee members are:
Rep. Cathy Muņoz, Chair (R-Juneau; House Majority)
Rep. Eric Feige (R-Chickaloon; House Majority)
Repr. Shelley Hughes (R-Palmer; House Majority)
Rep. Benjamin Nageak (D-Barrow; House Majority)
Rep. Lora Reinbold (R-Eagle River; House Majority)
Rep. David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks; House Minority)
Rep. Andrew Josephson (D-Anchorage; House Minority)
The House starts the work on the operating budget, and the Senate Finance Committee will do much of its work after the House has passed the budget and transmitted it to the Senate for consideration. The Senate Finance Committee also has a University Budget Subcommittee to do the detail work. The subcommittee is made up of two members of the Senate Finance Committee (Anna Fairclough and Pete Kelly) and two senators who are not members of the Finance Committee. The subcommittee members are:
Sen. Anna Fairclough, Chair (R-Eagle River; Senate Majority)
Sen. Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks; Senate Majority)
Sen. Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak; Senate Majority)
Sen. Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage; Senate Minority)
UA President Pat Gamble will appear before the House Finance Committee on Tuesday, February 4 at 1:30 p.m. to provide an overview of the university system and the proposed FY15 operating budget. At 3 p.m., President Gamble will appear at the first meeting of the House’s University Budget Subcommittee, to discuss the same topics.
The Coalition of Student Leaders arrives in Juneau today, and will be here through Feb. 4. The students will be meeting with many legislators to discuss university issues. Student leaders have been very effective advocates in recent years, particularly on operating budget items such as student advising.
The UAA, UAF and UAS Alumni Associations will be sponsoring an Ice Cream Social in the Beltz Committee Room on Monday, February 3 from 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. This is an annual event, and it is an opportunity for the student leaders and alumni to meet with legislators in a social setting.
Bills of Interest:
On Jan. 24, Governor Parnell introduced comprehensive education bills in the House (HB 278) and the Senate (SB139). The bills were identical when they were introduced, but they will each take on distinctive qualities as they are amended in the committees of their respective houses. While the focus of the bills is K-12, there are many parts that directly or indirectly impact the university, such as sections on dual credit and on TVEP. SB 139 has been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee on Monday, Feb. 3 at 8 a.m. You can look up the bills and follow their progress on the legislative information web page. ( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/start.asp ).
The House’s University Budget Subcommittee has additional meetings scheduled on Feb. 11, 18, and 25 at 3 p.m. Testimony is by invitation only. Opportunities for public testimony will probably come in early March, and we will post that information on the State Relations web page ( www.alaska.edu/state ) as well as share it in The Capitol Report.
January 21, 2014
By Chris Christensen, associate vice president for state relations
The Second Session of the 28th Alaska State Legislature is under way in Juneau, and the 90- day session will be a difficult one. This will be the 31st session I’ve spent working with the legislature, and my third year representing the university. I know the legislature and its members well, but each year brings new challenges and unexpected complications. One thing I have learned in my time here is that there are many passionate advocates for the university, people who are willing to devote their time and energy to advancing its interests. You made my first two sessions with UA much easier, and I look forward to working with all of you again this year.
Over the course of the legislative session, you will receive this newsletter periodically to keep you up to date on what is happening in the Capitol. When there are important hearings or opportunities to actively engage in advocacy for the university, we’ll also post it on the UA State Relations webpage: www.alaska.edu/state
Our most important task each session is advocating for the university’s operating and capital budgets. That job has been made more difficult this year by the dramatic reduction in oil revenues received by the state. Between FY13 and FY15, the state’s unrestricted general fund revenues are projected to decline from $6.9 billion to $4.5 billion, a 35 percent reduction. This decline means that during the current fiscal year, FY14, the state will run an estimated $2 billion deficit. When the legislature puts together the FY15 budget this session, it will attempt to lower next year’s expected deficit by reducing state spending.
Governor Parnell took the first step to implement a reduction in state spending when he announced his FY15 budget on December 12. That budget proposes that the state spend 18.4 percent less in general fund dollars than it is spending during the current year. For the university operating budget, the governor proposes a $14.9 million reduction from the current year’s funding level, but he also proposes adding $5.3 million to partially cover new expenses, such as the scheduled employee pay raises and operating costs for new buildings that are due to open this year. UA’s net cut in the governor’s operating budget is $9.6 million below the FY14 level. ( www.alaska.edu/files/state/FY15-Budget-Data-Summary-Final.pdf )
In his capital budget, Governor Parnell proposes that UA receive $37.5 million for deferred maintenance, and $10 million in unrestricted general funds for continuing construction of the UAA and UAF engineering buildings. We are grateful to the governor for his support of those items. Unfortunately, there is no funding in his budget for the upgrade of the UAF combined heat and power plant ($195 million), for the balance needed to actually complete the engineering buildings ($68.9 million, in addition to the proposed $10 million), or for any of the research projects that benefit Alaska.
The House and Senate Finance Committees are already starting to work on the operating budget. University President Pat Gamble has been asked to appear before the House Finance Committee on Tuesday, February 4 between 1:30 –3:30 to give committee members an overview on UA and its operating budget. We will keep you updated as budget hearings are added to the schedule.
Here are some handy reference guides for your information and use. We will also post them on the State Relations webpage for easy access:
A roster of legislative members with contact information:
Legislators by district:
Committee assignments for the 28th legislature:
BASIS – A great reference tool to locate specific legislation, bill sponsors, legislative actions, and a host of other reference materials: www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/start.asp
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