State Relations

The Capitol Report 2018

The Capitol Report: Adjournment Edition

May 15, 2018

Greetings from Juneau! The 30th Alaska Legislature adjourned sine die early Sunday morning. It was a busy and productive final few days, and compared to recent years, the session closed with far less acrimony and on relatively congenial terms. By contrast, last year the legislature went on to hold a record four special sessions and lawmakers spent more than 200 days in session.

Session Recap
The university community can be proud of what was accomplished this year. Together, we demonstrated UA’s vital role in Alaska’s future and successfully argued for renewed public investment in the university system. We reversed four consecutive years of budget cuts and added $10 million to next year’s operating budget. The university will enter the upcoming fiscal year with $327 million in general fund support from the state, public support that constitutes 37 percent of our $889 million annual operating budget.
 
We also secured $2 million for facilities maintenance in the final capital budget. We also have tentative agreement with legislative leadership to secure an additional $3 million of a separate $20 million appropriation directed to the Governor’s office to address public facilities deferred maintenance across the state. While $5 million is well below the Board of Regents’ $50 million capital request, it is in-line with what we received in the current fiscal year, and a welcome addition to helping address the estimated $1 billion deferred maintenance backlog.
 
This session we also protected other important funding sources and industry partnership programs. The Education Tax Credit, a program that annually brings $3 to $5 million in private investment to UA, was extended six years through 2024. We prevented diminishment of the Alaska Performance Scholarship and the Alaska Education Grant. These programs ensure Alaskans have access to the post-secondary education they need to succeed in today’s fast-paced, highly competitive marketplace. Collectively, these programs provide $11 million in merit scholarships and $7 million in needs-based tuition assistance annually to Alaskans. The legislature also provided $500,000 to UAA’s Institute of Circumpolar Health Studies to examine Vitamin D levels in expectant mothers and their newborns in Alaska.

Alaska National Lab Day – Register Now!
Make sure to check out UAF’s upcoming conference Alaska National Lab Day. Through a partnership with Senator Lisa Murkowski, the university is bringing leaders of the Department of Energy's National Laboratories to Fairbanks May 30-31. This is truly a unique opportunity for the UA community to engage with world class researchers. I encourage you to review the agenda and register to attend.

Legislative Changes
This year’s end of session is punctuated by the anticipated departure of several legislators, some of whom are completing long periods of public service, others simply changing careers, and a few are seeking higher office. Last election cycle saw a nearly 25 percent turnover in the legislature, so inevitably we will see a number of new faces next year in Juneau.

In the Senate, Minority Leader Berta Gardner of Anchorage, Finance Co-Chair Anna MacKinnon of Eagle River and Juneau’s Dennis Egan have all announced their retirement. Senator Kevin Meyer of Anchorage is leaving to run for Lieutenant Governor. Senator Gary Stevens of Kodiak has also filed for Lieutenant Governor but because his seat is not up this election cycle, we expect to see him back in the Capitol next year if he’s unsuccessful in his statewide bid.

In the House, Fairbanks Representative David Guttenberg, a long-time supporter of the university and chairman of our operating budget subcommittee will retire. Nikiski Representative Mike Chenault is running for Governor and Anchorage Representative Chris Birch and Fairbanks Representative Scott Kawasaki are running for Senate. Juneau Representatives Sam Kito and Justin Parish will not seek re-election, meaning the Capital City will have a completely new legislative delegation next session.

With the June 1st state office filing deadline rapidly approaching, other incumbents may also decide not to stand for re-election. We thank all of these leaders for their public service and wish them well in their current and future endeavors.
Your Government Relations team will be following this season’s political activities closely, building relationships, advocating for our university and continuing to work every day to represent your best interests with state policymakers.

The University of Alaska has much to be happy with this session. Thank you to everyone who took the time to engage in this year’s legislative process and advocate on UA’s behalf.

For more information, contact Miles Baker, Associate Vice President of Government Relations, at 907-463-3086 or miles.baker@alaska.edu.

The Capitol Report: May 11, 2018

The Capitol Report

May 11, 2018

Greetings from Juneau. Today is the 116th day of session. The legislature is working at full steam in an effort to conclude its business this weekend ahead of Wednesday’s 121-day constitutional deadline.

Here’s what’s happened since our last update.

Operating Budget Update
The legislature agreed to increase the university’s general fund operating budget for the first time in four years. This is excellent news and a major show of support for the university. Yesterday, the Operating Budget Conference Committee set UA’s funding level at $327 million for next fiscal year, a $10 million increase over this year’s spending level. Given the challenging fiscal environment our state is still facing, this outcome is a significant accomplishment. Yesterday’s action is the conclusion of months of work by the UA community and our supporters. You effectively communicated our value and the vital role we play in Alaska’s future.
 
The conference committee also approved intent language instructing UA to continue our systemwide efficiency initiatives, to maximize the capabilities and strengths of our campuses and faculty, and to maintain our world leadership in Arctic related research. The committee also agreed to fund a study of vitamin D levels in newborns and expecting mothers in Alaska, an important priority for House Finance Co-Chair Paul Seaton. The study will be conducted by UAA’s Institute of Circumpolar Health Studies.
 
Thank you to everyone who took the time to engage in this year’s budget process and advocate on UA’s behalf.

Capital Budget Update
The Senate has passed the FY19 capital budget (SB 142), and as this report is being written, the House Finance Committee is considering possible amendments. The current version of the bill does not include any funding for the university’s significant deferred maintenance backlog.
 
Historically, the university has looked to the legislature to provide annual capital appropriations to help address our deferred maintenance. Between FY06 and FY15, the legislature appropriated a total of $284 million, an average of $28 million a year to renewal and repurposing of our facilities. That level of support is critical. Since FY16, we’ve received just $8 million in capital funding, $5 million of that was last year. Without annual capital appropriations to augment internal funds directed to this effort, we will not be able to develop a systemic approach to addressing this obligation and protecting the state’s investment.
 
We’ve been working diligently over the last several days to address this issue, and are hopeful the House will address our concerns before finalizing the final FY19 spending proposal. 

Fiscal Plan
Perhaps the most significant legislative accomplishment last week was a final agreement on SB 26. The bill would for the first time establish a statutory mechanism for annually drawing a portion of Permanent Fund earnings to fund state government services and to address the state’s structural budget deficit. This is a historic policy shift for the State of Alaska.
 
Managing the Permanent Fund as an endowment to help alleviate the state’s volatile finances has been discussed for a generation. Declines in both oil production and price reduced Alaska’s unrestricted general fund revenues from $9.5 billion in FY12 to just $1.3 billion this past year. Large deficits forced dramatic reductions in state spending and drained $14 billion from the state’s savings accounts.
Use of Permanent Fund earnings has always been controversial and SB 26 has had a long road to final passage. It is the product of significant negotiations between the House and the Senate that actually began four years ago, during the previous legislative session.
 
SB 26 establishes a structured annual draw from the Permanent Fund’s Earnings Reserve Account (ERA) to pay for dividends and public services. It provides for an annual draw equivalent to 5.25% of the fund’s five-year average market value. The draw will be reduced to 5% of market value after three years. The statutory formula for calculating dividends remains the same, and the bill provides a mechanism for inflation proofing the corpus of the fund. The Senate passed the compromise on a vote of 13 to 6. The House approved the plan on a 23-17 vote. The proposal is expected to generate $2.7 billion in annual revenue and help stabilize the state’s finances.

Education Tax Credit
The Senate Finance Committee has passed legislation to extend the Education Tax Credit (ETC) which is currently scheduled to expire in December 2018. The Senate substitute to HB 233 makes major changes to the current program and extends the tax credit in two phases. First, the incentive for contributions between $100,000 and $300,000 will be reduced to 75% until 2021. At that point, the credit will be reduced to 50% for all contribution levels. The rewrite also lowers the annual cap per taxpayer from $5 million to $1 million.
 
While it is encouraging that the credit is likely to be extended, these recent changes are unfortunate for this program that has had tremendous benefits to the university. The ETC was established to encourage private businesses to make charitable contributions to Alaska educational institutions. For a contribution made to UA to be eligible for the tax credit, the money must be used for direct instruction, research, education support, the UA Foundation, facilities or intercollegiate sports. In 2015, UA received approximately $5.2 million in corporate donations.
 
While we don’t expect further changes to the bill, we will be working with our industry stakeholders to help ensure the bill’s passage.

Bills on the Move
Fun fact: Over 170 bills and resolutions have passed the House and Senate during the 30th Alaska Legislature. With four days remaining in the session there are numerous bills in play, most of which are in the House or Senate Rules Committees awaiting action on the floor. It is not uncommon for bills to move in starts-and-stops through the legislative process. However, legislators always add additional pressure the second year of the two-year legislative session. Any bill which doesn’t pass by adjournment is void and would have to be reintroduced next year during the 31st Alaska Legislature.
 
Here’s a few of the notable bills that are in motion during the final part of session:
 
House Bill 331
Authorizes issuing bonds to pay off oil tax credits of over $800 million. The bill has passed the House and just passed the Senate this afternoon.
 
House Bill 44
Revises statutes governing legislative ethics, conflicts of interests, and disclosures. The bill sets new limitations for legislators and lobbyists doing business in Alaska. The bill has passed the House and Senate, but is awaiting concurrence in the House. Passage of the bill could neutralize a similar ballot initiative being sponsored by Rep. Jason Grenn and Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins.
 
Senate Bill 76
Reforms Alaska alcohol laws including licensing, business activity, and criminal penalties. The bill passed the Senate but has been sidelined by sponsor Sen. Peter Micciche over a disagreement about limiting sample tastings at breweries. The university has been monitoring this bill for a potential licensing benefit to the UAF Pub.
 
House Bill 221
Allows the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education to create a new education statistics program through partnerships with the university and other state agencies to improve workforce training. The bill has passed the House and Senate.

Alaska National Lab Day
Later this month UAF will be hosting a national conference that spotlights cutting edge research being done in Alaska. Alaska National Lab Day will bring leaders of the Department of Energy's National Laboratories to UAF. World class researchers from around the country will discuss a wide array of energy, research, and technology issues. Having all of the national labs together at one conference is rare. We are also fortunate to also host Senator Murkowski and Under Secretary of Energy Paul Dabbar. The forum will be held at UAF May 30-31, and includes options for site visits before and after the conference. It's a unique opportunity for the UA community. Registration is filling up fast, so make sure to check out the agenda and register soon.

For more information, contact Miles Baker, Associate Vice President of Government Relations, at 907-463-3086 or miles.baker@alaska.edu.

The Capitol Report: May 1, 2018

The Capitol Report

May 1, 2018

Greetings from Juneau. Today is the 106th day of session. The pace in the Capitol is measured, but discussions appear to be happening to pave the way for adjournment. Big decisions still need to be made, but the components of a compromise are being negotiated amongst House and Senate leadership. The primary issues that must be resolved before adjournment: the FY19 operating and capital budgets, and a funding plan for state government. 

The Constitution of the State of Alaska limits regular sessions of the legislature to 121 days. This year that date falls on May 16, giving lawmakers just over two weeks to finish their work. This is the second session of the 30th Alaska Legislature, meaning any legislation that does not pass the House and Senate in the next two weeks is null and void. 

Capital Budget Update
On April 25, the Senate Finance Committee released its committee substitute for the FY19 capital budget (SB 142). Unfortunately, the bill did not include any deferred maintenance funding for the university. UA has historically relied on annual capital appropriations to address our facilities maintenance backlog, which now exceeds $1 billion. The bill does include $20 million for the governor’s office to address state agencies’ highest priority maintenance needs, but it is unclear whether any of that funding would come to the university. You can see a breakdown of the projects included in the capital budget here.
 
We are continuing to advocate for senators to include the university in the capital budget. Thank you to those who called in to the Senate Finance Committee's public testimony session to testify your support for UA. We are hopeful the committee will include the university in its final draft of the bill before it goes to the Senate floor.

Operating Budget Update
The FY19 operating budget (HB 286) is currently being negotiated in a conference committee. The committee has met twice to address procedural steps and budget differences, but did not discuss the university. Currently, the UA budget stands at $336 million in the House and $322.5 million in the Senate. It’s not too late to weigh in and contact your legislators. It is important that they hear from individuals like you who may be directly impacted by state funding for the university.
 
The university has developed a digital postcard to highlight the important choice facing legislators. We encourage you to lend your voice to this effort and to communicate the reasons you support funding the university at the House level ($336 million). You can access the postcard and directions for emailing legislators here. Share your e-cards on social media using the hashtags #SupportUA and #AKleg to broaden the impact of your advocacy. As a reminder, if you are a UA employee, do not use university email or other resources to contact legislators. Please do so on your own time.

Education Tax Credit
Last week the Senate Finance Committee presented a committee substitute for HB 233, the bill that would extend the Education Tax Credit by six years. The committee substitute includes major changes to the current program. The rewrite reduces a key incentive for contributions between $100,000 and $300,000, and also lowers the annual cap of the credit from $5 million to $1 million. This could have serious implications for charitable giving to the university. UA Foundation President Susan Foley and UAF College of Fisheries & Ocean Sciences Dean Brad Moran have both written letters to the committee urging that they retain the existing program. Industry partners have also been communicating with legislators to explain the tremendous benefit of this program. We are optimistic that a compromise can be reached before the Senate concludes its deliberations on the bill.

At this point, we predict the legislature will work at least up to the 121-day limit on May 16. Thank you for all you do to support and advocate on behalf of the university.

For more information, contact Miles Baker, Associate Vice President of Government Relations, at 907-463-3086 or miles.baker@alaska.edu.

The Capitol Report: April 13, 2018

The Capitol Report
April 13, 2018

Greetings from Juneau. Today is the 88th day of session.

This Sunday marks day 90 of session and the statutory deadline for the Legislature to conclude its business. It’s been clear for the past several weeks that more time will be needed to pass a budget plan, and the Legislature will not be done in 90 days. The Constitution of the State of Alaska limits legislative sessions to 120 days. Legislators now have until May 16 to pass a budget and finish their work without calling a special session. 

Budget & Fiscal Update

The next 30 days will center on developing a fiscal package – a combination of spending and revenue that can garner enough votes to pass both the House and Senate. Yesterday, the Senate held floor debate on the FY19 operating budget (HB 286) and considered more than 18 amendments. Senator Berta Gardner offered an amendment to add an additional $10 million to the university’s operating budget. Senator Gardner spoke about the importance of covering the university’s fixed cost increases and key strategic investments. The amendment failed by a vote of 5-15, along organizational lines.

Currently, the UA budget stands at $336 million in the House and $322 million in the Senate. A conference committee has now been appointed to resolve the differences between the two versions of the budget and will convene its first meeting tomorrow, Saturday, April 14
 at 11 a.m. to begin that process. Appointment of the operating budget conference committee triggers the 24-hour rule, which allows hearings to be scheduled with only a single day’s notice.

While legislators are close to setting a spending level, how to pay for this spending is a more difficult and contentious issue. This year is different from the last several, because the state does not have enough short-term savings to balance the level of spending being proposed. The state’s two primary savings accounts, the Constitutional Budget Reserve and the Statutory Budget Reserve, are inadequate to cover next year’s deficit.

To fund state government, legislators have considered a variety of revenue options including new taxes, increased oil taxes, and withdrawing money from the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve. These are all politically complex issues. Despite this, possible compromises are emerging. The Legislature has already agreed on a Permanent Fund Dividend amount of $1,600 for next year. They’ve also agreed on using earnings of the Permanent Fund. The House Majority has previously stated that they don’t want a Permanent Fund earnings draw without some form of new taxes. Bridging these differences will be a big hurdle in the coming weeks. 

Legislation Update

The House passed HB 233 yesterday to extend the Education Tax Credit by six years. A floor amendment by Rep. Gary Knopp broadened the eligibility of the tax credit to include nationally accredited educational institutions such as Alaska Christian College. The bill has been transmitted to the Senate and is awaiting action in the Senate Finance Committee.
 
Legislation commissioning a study on Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) is gaining momentum. SB 198 by Senator Pete Kelly would direct the UAA Institute of Circumpolar Health Studies to conduct a study on the impact of providing these contraceptives to help prevent prenatal drug or alcohol exposure. The bill will be heard in the House Health & Social Services Committee next Tuesday

Capitol Happenings

Representative Sam Kito (D-Juneau) announced his independence from the House Majority Caucus this week, stating he will no longer be a reliable vote for his caucus. The representative expressed dissatisfaction with how the House had handled legislative processes, and suggested he will work with both parties during the remainder of session.

President Johnsen recently appeared on 360North's Forum@360, discussing the university's budget, goals, and priorities. Watch the video online here.

 

The Senator Ted Stevens Legislative Internship Program Class of 2018 was honored at a ceremony in the Speaker's Chambers at the Alaska State Capitol last Tuesday. The interns (wearing Incredible Hulk ties) are joined by Program Coordinator and UAS Professor of Government Glenn Wright, UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield, UA Foundation President Susan Foley, and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon. (Photo by Seanna O'Sullivan)

The Capitol Report: April 4, 2018

The Capitol Report

By Miles Baker

Associate Vice President Government Relations

April 4, 2018

Greetings from Juneau! Today is the 79th day of the legislative session. After two weeks of floor debate, the FY19 operating budget (HB 286) passed the House on Monday and transmitted to the Senate today. The Senate is closing out the remainder of its budget subcommittees, and you can expect the Senate to move quickly to finalize its version of next year’s spending plan.

UA Budget Update

This morning, the University’s budget subcommittee in the Senate concluded its review of our FY19 operating budget, recommending an increment of $5.5 million and intent language directed at:

  • Maximizing the strength of each university campus and systemwide efficiency
  • Best use of faculty and labor resources
  • Maintaining the university’s position as a leader in Arctic research and contributor to Alaska’s economic development

The committee set state funding for the university at $322.5 million, which is $5.5 million above the Governor’s request, but $14 million less than the budget passed by the House. The subcommittee’s recommendation will now go to the full Senate Finance Committee for consideration. You can review the subcommittee closeout report here: http://legfin.akleg.gov/BudgetReports/LY2018/Operating/SenateSubNumbers/UOA-Narrative.pdf

The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled public testimony on the operating budget this Friday. This will be your last opportunity to give public testimony in support of the university’s budget. Here is the schedule:  

Friday, April 6:

9:00 – 9:30 a.m. – Juneau

9:30 – 10:00 a.m. – Utqiagvik, Tok, Delta Junction

10:00 – 10:30 a.m. – Kenai, Kodiak, Dillingham

10:30 – 11:00 a.m. – Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg

---

1:30 – 2:00 p.m. – Bethel, Nome, Kotzebue, Unalaska

2:00 – 2:30 p.m. – Sitka, Cordova, Valdez

2:30 – 3:30 p.m. – Fairbanks, Mat-Su

3:30 – 4:00 p.m. – Glennallen, Seward, Homer

4:00 – 5:00 p.m. – Statewide Offnets

5:00 – 6:00 p.m. – Anchorage

It is extremely important that the Senate hears from you at this critical stage in the budget negotiating process. Share with lawmakers why the university matters to you, your family, and your community. If you’re wondering what to say, you can start by thanking committee members for their work and their support of the University of Alaska. Advocacy tips and a briefing sheet on our FY19 operating budget are available online at www.alaska.edu/state.

You can testify either by going to your local Legislative Information Office (LIO) or by calling in during the time specified above. Find your LIO here: http://akleg.gov/lios.php. If you can’t make it to an LIO, you may call in during time allocated for the “Statewide Offnets.” In Juneau, call 907-586-9085, in Anchorage, call 907-563-9085, and in all other locations call 844-586-9085.

Public testimony is limited to 2 minutes. Plan to arrive at the LIO well before your allotted timeslot. You can also email your comments to the Senate Finance Committee members at Senate.Finance.Committee@akleg.gov. When communicating with legislators, please do so on your personal time such as during lunch or after work, and avoid using your university email.

Capital Budget

Both the Senate and House Finance Committees held hearings on the Governor’s proposed FY19 capital budget this week. The UA Board of Regents requested $50 million in capital funds to address the university’s $1 billion deferred maintenance/renewal & repurposing backlog. While the Governor did not include funding for the university in his FY19 capital request, he has introduced a separate piece of legislation, the Alaska Economic Recovery Plan, to fund maintenance and public works. The Governor’s proposal would provide $190 million for UA over three years, funded through a new 1.5 percent payroll tax. We are monitoring the capital budget process closely, and will provide additional updates as appropriate.

Legislation on the Move

Last week both House and Senate Finance Committees heard legislation (HB 233/SB 116) extending the Education Tax Credit by six years. UA Foundation President Susan Foley and UAF College of Fisheries & Ocean Sciences Dean Brad Moran testified in support of the legislation and highlighted the credit’s benefit to education programs in Alaska. You can view both hearings here:

http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=HFIN%202018-03-27%2013:30:00#tab4_4

http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=SFIN%202018-03-26%2009:00:00#tab4_4

Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee passed legislation commissioning a study on the feasibility and effectiveness of providing Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) to women with substance abuse disorders who are at high risk for unintended pregnancies. Senate Bill 198 by Senator Pete Kelly would direct the UAA Institute of Circumpolar Health Studies to conduct a study on the impact that providing these contraceptives could have on preventing prenatal drug or alcohol exposure. If passed, the legislation will likely be accompanied by $500k of additional funding. You can view the hearing here:

http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=SFIN%202018-03-26%2009:00:00#tab4_4

For more information, contact Miles Baker at miles.baker@alaska.edu or 907-463-3086.

The Capitol Report: March 23, 2018

The Capitol Report

By Miles Baker

Associate Vice President Government Relations

March 23, 2018

Greetings from Juneau. Today is the 67th day of session.

Operating Budget Update

At time of publication, the House is on the floor working to complete its work on the FY19 Operating Budget (HB 286). In anticipation of the budget passing the House this weekend, the Senate Finance Committee has tentatively scheduled public testimony on the budget early next week. We will send out a reminder next week, but here’s the tentative schedule:

Tuesday, March 27th:

9:30 - 10:30 am: Juneau                 

10:30 - 11:00 am: Utqiagvik, Tok, Delta Junction                 

11:00 - 11:30 am: Kenai, Kodiak, Dillingham        

11:30 am - 12:00 pm: Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg   

1:30 - 2:30 pm: Bethel, Nome, Kotzebue, Unalaska             

2:30 - 3:00 pm: Sitka, Cordova, Valdez    

3:00 - 3:45 pm: Fairbanks, Mat-Su              

Wednesday March 28th:

1:30 - 2:00 pm: Glennallen, Seward, Homer          

2:00 - 3:00 pm: Statewide Off-nets             

3:00 - 4:00 pm: Anchorage

It’s important that legislators hear your story about why the university matters to you, your family and our communities. If you’re wondering what to say, you can start by thanking legislators for their support of the University of Alaska. When contacting legislators, avoid using university email or other resources, and do so on your own time, such as lunchtime or after work.

Next Wednesday, March 28th, the university’s Senate Finance Budget Subcommittee will conclude its work and make a recommendation to the full Senate Finance Committee on funding levels for the university. We will be watching this process closely and please stay tuned for additional updates.

Legislative Update

Legislation to extend the Education Tax Credit continues to gain momentum. Next week both the House and Senate Finance Committees will hear legislation extending this important tax credit by six years. Senate Bill 116 will be heard on Monday, March 26th at 9:00 am, and House Bill 233 will be heard Tuesday, March 27th at 1:30 pm. It’s great to see this legislation moving forward.

Also on Monday, the Senate Finance Committee will hear legislation instructing the university to study a way to address Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Senate Bill 198 by Senator Pete Kelly would commission the UAA Institute of Circumpolar Health Studies to examine the potential impact of long acting reversible contraceptives for women with substance abuse disorders. Jeff Jessee, dean of the UAA College of Health, will participate in the hearing.

All of these hearings can be viewed online at www.gavelalaska.org or www.akl.tv.

Coalition of Student Leaders Fly-in

The university was well represented in the Capitol this week as young Alaskans from across the state visited Juneau for the UA Coalition of Student Leaders fly-in. Their energy and personal stories are always a big help in promoting UA and advocating for our legislative agenda.

The students met with dozens of legislators and staff, and got to see one of their fellow students in action, as UA Student Regent Joey Sweet had confirmation hearings before several legislative committees. His nomination to the Board of Regents was forwarded for consideration at a joint session of the Legislature later this session.

Thank you to all the students who took time to come to Juneau on behalf of our university. Thank you also to Morgan Dufseth, executive officer for system governance, for organizing a great fly-in.

 

For more information, contact Miles Baker at miles.baker@alaska.edu or visit www.alaska.edu/state.

The Capitol Report: March 20, 2018

The Capitol Report

By Miles Baker

Associate Vice President Government Relations

March 20, 2018

Greetings from Juneau. Today is the 64th day of session and I’m pleased to provide this update on work happening in the Capitol.

Revenue Outlook

Lawmakers received some generally positive news this week when the Department of Revenue presented its spring revenue forecast. The department’s biannual predictions help frame the legislature’s deliberations on the budget, and its estimates for price and production of oil on Alaska’s North Slope set the parameters on revenue available to fund state government.

The spring 2018 forecast published on Friday is a bit of a mixed bag. Oil production is down slightly by approximately 2,500 barrels per day, but the price of oil is higher and shipping costs have been reduced. This resulted in a net increase in projected oil revenue for the state. For next fiscal year, FY19, the department is increasing its forecasted average price of oil from $57 per barrel to $63. This could mean an estimated additional $210 million dollars in much needed revenue.

However, the predicted increase is not enough to close the state’s $2.5 billion budget deficit, or to dramatically change the political calculus around a long-term fiscal plan, but any improvement in the state’s financial picture is encouraging.

Budget Update 

The FY19 operating budget is being debated on the House floor this week. The House Finance Committee passed the budget (HB 286) out of committee late Friday afternoon after considering more than 100 amendments. As part of the amendment process, Co-Chair Rep. Paul Seaton added $500,000 for UAA’s Institute of Circumpolar Health Studies to study vitamin D levels in newborns and expecting mothers in Alaska.

We are grateful for the bipartisan support the House has demonstrated for the university. The budget the full House will be debating contains $19 million to help address fixed cost increases and the Board of Regents’ strategic priorities. Last year’s House floor proceedings on the budget lasted a full week and included consideration of more than 130 amendments. We will be monitoring this week’s floor debate closely. You can follow along online through Gavel to Gavel at www.gavelalaska.org.

Last week both the Senate and the House passed the FY18 fast track supplemental operating budget (HB 321). This bill covers immediate needs and unforeseen expenses for services such as Medicaid and the Alaska Marine Highway System. The bill also contains language approving the terms of the United Academics collective bargaining agreement reached late last year.

Coalition of Student Leaders Visit

It was great to welcome more than 30 young Alaskans to Juneau this week as part of the UA Coalition of Student Leaders fly-in. The energy and personal stories these students bring to the Capitol is inspiring. They are a big help in promoting UA and helping to advocate for our legislative agenda.

The students began their meeting over the weekend with remarks from House Majority Leader Rep. Chris Tuck, Rep. Scott Kawasaki, and Juneau Assembly member Jesse Kiehl. During their past two days around the Capitol, they’ve had dozens of meetings with legislators and staff. They also attended legislative hearings and got to see one of their fellow students in action.

On Monday, the Senate Education Committee held a confirmation hearing for UA Student Regent Joey Sweet. Governor Walker appointed Regent Sweet to a two-year term on the UA Board of Regents. At the end of the hearing, his nomination was forwarded by the committee for consideration at a joint session of the Legislature later this session.

You can listen to the hearing here: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=SEDC%202018-03-19%2008:00:00#tab4_4

House State Affairs Hearing

The House State Affairs Committee held two discussions to consider potential changes to the Washington Wyoming Alaska Montana Idaho (WWAMI) Medical Education Program. WWAMI offers qualified Alaskans an opportunity to attend the University of Washington Medical School. The program has operated in Alaska for more than 40 years, providing Alaskans access to one of the nation’s top medical schools and increasing the number of doctors living and practicing in Alaska.

Committee members asked questions about WWAMI participation among Alaskans, the state’s financial contributions, student tuition, and the number of program graduates who return to practice in Alaska. 

Dr. Jane Shelby, director of the WWAMI program at UAA, did a fantastic job answering legislators’ questions and explaining the program’s value to Alaska. You can listen to Dr. Shelby’s testimony here(beginning at time stamp 4:48:40): http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=HSTA%202018-03-15%2015:15:00#tab4_4

The committee also discussed the program on Tuesday afternoon, which you can listen to here: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=HSTA%202018-03-13%2015:15:00#tab4_4

Capitol Happenings

Representative Tiffany Zulkosky (D-Bethel) was sworn in on March 9th. We’re happy to welcome her to Juneau as an alumni of the university. Representative Zulkosky received her Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Alaska Southeast. Her swearing-in marks the first time the Legislature has been fully seated this session.

For more information, contact Miles Baker at miles.baker@alaska.edu or visit www.alaska.edu/state

The Capitol Report: March 5, 2018

The Capitol Report

By Miles Baker

Associate Vice President Government Relations

March 5, 2018

Greetings from Juneau. Today is the 49th day of the legislative session.

Budget Update

The House Finance Committee is keeping busy this week finishing its work on the state’s FY19 operating budget. Last week the committee held public testimony and more than 200 Alaskans participated. Thank you to everyone who took the time to testify in support of the University of Alaska.

This week the committee is considering dozens of proposed amendments to the budget. You can review the complete package of amendments here:

http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=HFIN%202018-03-05%2013:30:00#tab4_4

Much of the House’s work on the university’s budget occurred last week. The committee added $19 million to address fixed costs and strategic goals identified by the UA Board of Regents. We’re grateful for the bipartisan support the House Finance Committee has showed for the university.

So far, only one additional amendment has been proposed for our budget. Co-Chair Rep. Paul Seaton has proposed funding to study vitamin D levels in newborns and expecting mothers in Alaska. If his amendment is adopted, UAA’s Institute of Circumpolar Health Studies would conduct the research.

We’ll continue to monitor the operating budget as it moves to the House floor. There will be important opportunities to testify in support of the university in the coming weeks.

Anchorage Caucus

Legislators gathered at UAA’s Rasmuson Hall last Saturday for the mid-session meeting of the Anchorage Caucus. The annual event brings together the Anchorage legislative delegation to meet with constituents and community members on state issues. This was the first time the caucus has met at UAA, and the event was a great showcase for our university. Thank you to Interim Chancellor Gingerich, his staff, and the UAA community for welcoming legislators and hosting a great event.

Thank you for your continued support of the University of Alaska.

For more information, contact Miles Baker at miles.baker@alaska.edu or visit www.alaska.edu/state.

The Capitol Report: February 26, 2018

The Capitol Report

By Miles Baker

Associate Vice President Government Relations

February 26, 2018

Greetings from Juneau. Today is the 42nd day of the legislative session -- it’s hard to believe the 90-day regular session is almost half way through! Last week was a very busy week for the university, including five committee hearings in Juneau and President Johnsen’s State of the University address in Anchorage.

University Budget

Today saw a big step forward in achieving the university’s budget goal. I’m happy to report that just this evening the House Finance Committee voted to make a substantial investment in the University of Alaska.

During the closeout hearing of the university’s budget subcommittee last week, an amendment by Rep. Adam Wool added $19 million to the university’s operating budget. Subcommittee chair Rep. David Guttenberg presented that amendment to the full House Finance Committee this evening and it passed on a vote of 8-3. This is exciting news and brings the university’s FY19 operating budget to $336 million. It’s also exciting because the funding received bipartisan support both in the subcommittee and the full finance committee. A big thank you to Rep. Wool, Rep. Guttenberg and all representatives who supported this amendment.

The House Finance Committee has announced public testimony for the operating budget this week. Now is a great to time to get involved by contacting your legislator or testifying in support of the university’s budget. Your voice can make a big difference.

Education Tax Credit

Legislation to extend the Education Tax Credit is gaining momentum. This morning the House Education Committee passed HB 233 out of committee. This bill, along with its companion bill SB 116, would extend this important tax credit by six years. Both bills are now awaiting consideration in the House and Senate Finance Committees. It’s great to see this legislation move forward.

State of the University

President Johnsen delivered the annual State of the University address last Tuesday, February 20 at UAA's Lucy Cuddy Hall. This year's address was the keynote presentation at Commonwealth North's monthly luncheon and was attended by faculty, students, and community and business leaders.

As part of the address, President Johnsen discussed the university’s efforts to sustain high quality programs in the face of four successive years of budget cuts. He spoke about the importance of the Board of Regents' budget request of $341 million, and how state support is crucial to ensure the university will meet Alaska's workforce and educational needs. Video of the address is available online at www.alaska.edu/pres/sou.

He also emphasized the university's role in innovation and entrepreneurship, announcing UAF's new business incubator Center ICE (Center for Innovation, Commercialization, and Entrepreneurship) that will accelerate business start-ups in the UA system. He also announced the inaugural President's Innovation Challenge, which will bring UAA students and Anchorage community members together to tackle a local problem with innovative solutions. You can find out more information at: www.uapresidentsinnovationchallenge.com.

Presentations

It was great to welcome our three university alumni associations to Juneau last week. The UA All Alumni Fly-In, “UA Impact”, is a big help in promoting UA and helping to advocate for our legislative agenda. We also had several university faculty and staff in Juneau last week for the Juneau Economic Development Corporation’s Innovation Summit. It was great to have everyone in town to showcase research and work being done by the university to grow Alaska’s economy. Many of these faculty and staff members also came to the Capitol to present to legislators.

UAA’s Business Enterprise Institute hosted a lunch & learn information session last Wednesday, February 21st which can be viewed here:

http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=SMSC%202018-02-21%2012:00:00

Later that day, Jon Bittner of the Alaska Small Business Development Center presented to the House Labor & Commerce Committee about trends in Alaska business start-ups. You can view his presentation here: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=HL%26C%202018-02-21%2015:15:00#tab4_4

Dr. Brad Moran, Dean of the UAF College of Fisheries & Ocean Sciences, gave a very informative presentation to the House Fisheries Committee on Thursday, February 22nd which can be viewed here: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=HFSH%202018-02-22%2010:00:00#tab4_4

On Friday February 23rd, UAF Vice Chancellor for Research Larry Hinzman led a presentation to a joint hearing of the House and Senate Education Committees. The hearing showcased university research and its role in solving issues facing Alaska. Dr. Peter Wembley of the UAF Geophysical Institute and Professor George Roe of the Alaska Center for Energy & Power (ACEP) also participated in the hearing. Their presentation can be viewed here:

http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=HEDC%202018-02-23%2008:00:00#tab4_4  

Capitol Happenings

Alaska’s U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan both passed through Juneau recently to deliver their respective addresses to the legislature. You can view Sen. Murkowski’s speech here: https://www.360north.org/gavel/video/?clientID=2147483647&eventID=2018021307 and Sen. Sullivan’s speech here: https://www.360north.org/gavel/video/?clientID=2147483647&eventID=2018021345

Both bodies of the legislature will welcome a new member this week. Governor Walker has appointed Mike Shower (R-Mat-Su) to the Senate and Tiffany Zulkosky (D-Bethel) to the House. The appointments were confirmed by the legislators of their respective political parties as required by law. Senator Shower was sworn in today. Upon Zulkosky’s swearing-in, the legislature will have a full membership for the first time this session.

Thank you for your continued support of the University of Alaska.

For more information, contact Miles Baker at miles.baker@alaska.edu or visit www.alaska.edu/state

The Capitol Report: February 15, 2018

The Capitol Report

By Miles Baker

Associate Vice President Government Relations

February 15, 2018

Greetings from Juneau. Yesterday was the 30th legislative day -- it’s hard to believe the 90-day regular session is already a third of the way through! Work continues at a fast pace in the Capitol, and I’m happy to provide a quick update.

Make Your Voice Heard

The House budget process reaches full steam next week as House Finance subcommittees begin wrapping up their recommendations for state agency budgets, including our own. Now is a great time to reach out to your legislator and urge them to support the Board of Regents’ FY19 operating budget request of $341 million. This is a $24 million increase over the governor’s requested budget of $317 million. In these tight fiscal times, that is no small task and your voice is influential.

The university’s budget subcommittee will be considering amendments to our budget next Tuesday, February 20 at 4:30pm. I encourage you to contact the members of our subcommittee between now and then to communicate your support for the university, our budget, and any individual programs that are important to you. Members of our subcommittee include:  

Representative David Guttenberg, Chair (D-Fairbanks): rep.david.guttenberg@akleg.gov, 907-465-4457

Representative Chris Birch (R-Anchorage): rep.chris.birch@akleg.gov, 907-465-4931

Representative DeLena Johnson (R-Palmer): rep.delena.johnson@akleg.gov, 907-465-4958

Representative Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage): rep.andy.josephson@akleg.gov, 907-465-4939

Representative Gary Knopp (R-Kenai): rep.gary.knopp@akleg.gov, 907-465-2693

Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka): rep.jonathan.kreiss-tomkins@akleg.gov, 907-465-3732

Representative Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage): rep.gabrielle.ledoux@akleg.gov, 907-465-4998

Representative Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage): rep.chris.tuck@akleg.gov, 907-465-2095

Representative Adam Wool (D-Fairbanks): rep.adam.wool@akleg.gov, 907-465-4976

When communicating with legislators, please contact them on your personal time such as during lunch or after work, and avoid using your university email. There will be additional opportunities to provide public comment on the budget in the coming weeks, but this first stage is an extremely important one for establishing the university’s base funding recommendation for next year.

Delivering Our Message

Your university team has been hard at work in Juneau. President Johnsen has met with more than 20 individual legislators to advocate for our budget, discuss our strategic investment priorities and address legislative questions and concerns. We’ve used these meetings to highlight the severe impacts four straight years of budget reductions have had across the university.

Since my last update, the university has testified during seven legislative hearings, principally on our budget, but also provided support to the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee’s first hearing on extending the Education Tax Credit, an important priority for us this year.

The hearings and presentation materials can be viewed here:

House Finance University Subcommittee - Providing a Skilled Alaskan Workforce

http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=HUA%202018-02-06%2016:30:00#tab4_4

Joint House & Senate Education Committee – Building a Culture of Education

http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=SEDC%202018-02-07%2008:00:00#tab4_4

Senate Labor & Commerce – SB 116 Education Tax Credits

https://www.360north.org/gavel/video/?clientID=2147483647&eventID=2018021117

http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Bill/Detail/30?Root=SB%20116#tab5_4

House Finance University Subcommittee - Providing a Skilled Alaskan Workforce

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_documents.asp?chamber=HUA%20&session=30&bill=&date1=20180208&time2=1635

Senate Finance Committee - University Budget Overview

https://www.360north.org/gavel/video/?clientID=2147483647&eventID=2018021165

http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=SFIN%202018-02-13%2009:00:00#tab4_4

House Finance University Subcommittee - Growing World Class Research & Driving Economics Development

http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=HUA%20%202018-02-15%2016:30:00#tab4_4

Senator Ted Stevens Legislative Internship Program

Governor Walker welcomed President Johnsen, legislators, and members of the Ted Stevens Foundation to the Governor’s Mansion last week to celebrate the Ted Stevens Foundation’s generous investment in the program, which has been renamed to the Senator Ted Stevens Legislative Internship Program. The foundation has generously pledged $157,500 over five years to support the program. Over the past 30 years, the university has hosted 300 interns in legislative offices here in Juneau and we have 8 students participating this year. The well-attended reception featured remarks from the governor, President Johnsen, legislators, former interns, and special guest Lily Stevens-Becker, daughter of Senator Stevens and foundation board member. Legislators also presented a Legislative Citation celebrating the 30thanniversary of the internship program and its renaming in honor of Senator Stevens.

The internship program is a wonderful professional development and academic learning experience for Alaskan students. We encourage students of all majors and disciplines to consider applying for next year’s intern class. For more information: http://www.uas.alaska.edu/internprogram/

Coming Attractions

I look forward to welcoming our three university alumni associations to Juneau next week. The UA All Alumni Fly-In, “UA Impact,” will be in town to promote UA and help advocate for our legislative agenda. The Juneau Economic Development Corporation’s Innovation Summit also begins next week. The University of Alaska will be well represented by researchers, staff, faculty and policy experts who are participating in this annual summit. It will be great to have these professionals in the capital to speak with state and business leaders. We’re working hard to leverage their availability to augment our legislative schedule and to help communicate the value, benefit and impact the university has on Alaska. We have the following hearings planned to showcase the important work of our university.

--

House Labor & Commerce Committee – February 21 @ 3:30pm

“Forecast for Alaska’s Economy & Small Business”

UAA Institute for Social & Economic Research (ISER)

UAA Business Enterprise Institute

-- 

House Fisheries Committee – February 22 @ 10:00am

“Overview of University Fisheries & Ocean Research”

UAF College of Fisheries & Ocean Sciences

-- 

Joint House & Senate Education Committees – February 23 @ 8:00am

“The Power of University of Alaska Research”

UAF Vice Chancellor for Research Larry Hinzman

UA Center ICE Business Incubator

This Friday, February 16 at 8am, the House Education Committee will be holding an initial hearing on House Bill 233, Representative Tuck’s bill to extend the Education Tax Credit by six years. Last week, the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee heard Senator Coghill’s companion legislation SB 116 and moved it on to the Senate Finance Committee. Extending the ETC is a top legislative priority for the university and many of our industry partners, who generously support the university through philanthropic giving.

All of these hearings will be streamed online at www.gavelalaska.org or www.akl.tv.

Capitol Happenings

The process to replace former Senator Mike Dunleavy (R-Mat-Su) has been a big source of conversation in the Capitol this week. Disagreement between Governor Walker and Senate Republicans has prolonged the process and, despite two people being appointed so far, the seat still remains vacant.

Earlier today appointee Thomas Braund withdrew his name less than 24 hours after the governor nominated him for the seat. This was the governor’s second appointment for the vacancy, after his nomination of Mat-Su Borough Assembly member Randall Kowalke was rejected by Senate Republicans earlier this week.

Under state law, the governor may appoint any district resident who is registered in the same party as the previous incumbent – but that nominee must be confirmed by the sitting members of that party in the Senate. Prior to the appointment, and per tradition, Mat-Su Republicans vetted several possible appointees. They ultimately recommended three people, including Braund and current Rep. George Rauscher (R-Mat-Su), to the governor as possible nominees. The governor initially declined those suggestions and instead appointed Kowalke who was not confirmed. The governor will now have 10 days to appoint another person to the Senate seat.     

It’s very unusual to have a vacancy in the Senate this far into session. The last time something like this happened was 2009, when Governor Palin refused to appoint the person put forward by Juneau Democrats to replace former Senator Kim Elton. The ultimate solution to the impasse led to the appointment of current Senator Dennis Egan (D-Juneau).  

Stay Involved!

As the session moves forward, thank you for staying engaged in the process. Be sure to also follow the University of Alaska on Facebook and Twitter.

Please let me know if you ever find yourself in Juneau, and thank you for your continued support of the University of Alaska.

Thank you,

Miles Baker

For more information, contact Miles Baker at miles.baker@alaska.edu or visit www.alaska.edu/state.

February 5, 2018

The Capitol Report

By Miles Baker

Associate Vice President Government Relations

February 5, 2018

Greetings from Juneau. Today is the 21st day of the legislative session. The legislature is off to a busy start and there’s a lot happening in the Capitol important to the University of Alaska.

The second session of the two-year legislative cycle usually has a more down-to-business tone. Legislators have a great deal of work ahead of them to reach agreement on a budget and fiscal plan to fund state government. This past week also saw the swearing-in of newly-appointed Representative John Lincoln (D-Kotzebue). In the coming weeks, the Governor will also appoint replacements for Senator Mike Dunleavy and Representative Zach Fansler who have both resigned.

The university was well represented at the Capitol last Friday when students, faculty, and university supporters held a rally on the Capitol steps urging lawmakers to fully fund the regents’ budget. The event was attended by more than 70 people, including several legislators, and received positive media coverage. Representatives Adam Wool and Sam Kito spoke about the importance of the university and funding the regents’ $341 million operating budget request. Thank you to the UAS Faculty Senate, UAS Student Government, and all who helped organize the rally.

These past two weeks have centered around the start of the House Finance Committee’s operating budget process. Every major state agency has appeared before the committee to provide brief overviews on its budget. President Jim Johnsen presented the university’s budget on January 29. He discussed our mission including education, research and what we contribute to Alaska. He also discussed the university’s impact on the economy, the Strategic Pathways initiative, as well the goals and the Board of Regents’ FY19 budget.

You can watch President Johnsen’s presentation here: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=HFIN%202018-01-29%2013:30:00

Both the House and Senate also vet agency budgets through individual subcommittees. In the House, the university’s budget subcommittee consists of the members of the House State Affairs Committee with the addition of House Finance Committee member Representative David Guttenberg as chair:

Representative David Guttenberg, Chair (D-Fairbanks)

Representative Chris Birch (R-Anchorage)

Representative DeLena Johnson (R-Palmer)

Representative Gary Knopp (R-Kenai)

Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka)

Representative Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage)

Representative Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage)

Representative Adam Wool (D-Fairbanks)

The subcommittee held its first hearing on January 30. President Johnsen provided an overview of the university, our strategic objectives, FY19 budget and responded to a variety of questions. He also outlined the significant impacts that years of budget reductions have had across the entire university and highlighted the highest priority areas for continued strategic investment.

The hearing and presentation materials can be viewed here: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=HUA%202018-01-30%2016:30:00

This Week’s Committee Meetings:

The House budget subcommittee process will continue this week. On Tuesday, February 6 from 4:30 – 5:30pm, UA staff will present our plans to help build Alaska’s skilled workforce. On Thursday, February 8 from 4:30 – 5:30pm President Johnsen will discuss how the university is improving efficiency and effectiveness.

While in Juneau, President Johnsen will also present to a joint hearing of the House and Senate Education Committees about the university’s work to build a culture of education in Alaska. The hearing will be held Wednesday, February 7 at 8:00 am.

This Thursday, February 8 at 1:30 pm, UA staff will be taking part in a Senate Labor & Commerce Committee hearing in support of Senate Bill 116 to extend the education tax credit. This program provides a great benefit to the university and we’re glad to see it brought up for a hearing early in the session.

All of these hearings will be streamed online at www.gavelalaska.org or www.akl.tv.

Be sure to also follow the University of Alaska on Facebook and Twitter accounts. You’ll find video of Friday’s rally, updates on upcoming legislative hearings in Juneau, and more.

Please let me know if you ever find yourself in Juneau, and thank you for your continued support of the University of Alaska.

Thank you,

Miles Baker

For more information, contact Miles Baker at miles.baker@alaska.edu or visit www.alaska.edu/state.

January 26, 2018

The Capitol Report

By Miles Baker
Associate Vice President Government Relations

January 26, 2018

Greetings from Juneau and welcome to the 2018 Capitol Report.

Last Tuesday, state lawmakers gaveled-in to begin the second session of the 30th Alaska Legislature. After a record setting 217-day session last year, legislators have a full agenda facing them in the coming months.

Your university team is hard at work in Juneau, and we encourage you to stay engaged as the session continues. In addition to advocating for the Board of Regents FY19 operating budget request, we will be working to reauthorize the Alaska Education Tax Credit, secure funding for deferred maintenance, and show policymakers the value university research adds to Alaska and our economy.

Throughout the session we’ll provide you with updates on happenings in Juneau, and keep you informed about what you can do to advocate for our university. We’ll also be enhancing the information and resources available on the UA Government Relations webpage at www.alaska.edu/state. Please check back on a regular basis, and feel free to contact us if you ever have any questions or comments.

Alaska’s fiscal challenges have compounded over the past several years and will require consequential decisions by lawmakers this session. For the seventh year in a row, the state’s general fund revenues have not been sufficient to cover annual operating expenses. Declines in both oil production and price reduced Alaska’s unrestricted general fund revenues from $9.5 billion in FY12 to just $1.3 billion this past year.

Large deficits over recent years forced dramatic reductions in state spending and drained $14 billion from the state’s savings accounts. Although oil prices and production levels have risen slightly, the state still faces a FY19 deficit of $2.5 billion. The state’s two primary savings accounts, the Constitutional Budget Reserve and the Statutory Budget Reserve, do not have adequate funds to cover this year’s deficit. Finding fiscal solutions to this issue will be the focus of the session. Governor Walker stressed the importance of fixing state finances in his State of the State address last week.

The governor also used his speech to emphasize to legislators the importance of the University of Alaska and laud its work:

“An excellent education system also requires a strong university system. Faced with unprecedented budget challenges, the University of Alaska has made drastic cuts. But under the capable leadership of the University of Alaska Regents and administration, the university continues to produce well-prepared graduates and excellent programs.”

Advocating for the university’s annual operating and capital appropriations is my most important task. As you know, our budget has been cut by $61 million (16%) over the last four years and we expect continued pressure from the legislature this year. The Governor’s operating budget proposal holds our funding at last year’s $317 million level, $24 million below the Board of Regents’ $341 million request.

For the second year in a row, the Regents have requested $50 million in capital funds to address the university’s $1 billion deferred maintenance/renewal & repurposing backlog. While the Governor did not request funding for the university in his FY19 capital budget, he has introduced the Alaska Economic Recovery Plan that would fund maintenance and public works around the state, including the university. The initial proposal is linked to a new 1.5% payroll tax.

This week legislative committees began to ramp up. Our university team was involved in hearings on economic and workforce development. We are the largest trainer of Alaskan workers, and university staff participated in hearings on the state’s Technical Vocational Education Program (TVEP).

The House has begun operating budget hearings. University President Jim Johnsen has met with the legislative leaders and will appear before the House Finance Committee this Monday January 29th at 1:30 p.m. to present the university’s FY19 operating budget. The following afternoon President Johnsen will appear before the university’s budget subcommittee at 4:30 p.m. You can stream both hearings online at www.gavelalaska.org or at akl.tv, or watch it on television on 360 North.

As we begin this legislative session, I’d like to thank you for all the time and energy you put forward on behalf of our university. This year I’m happy to announce Weston Eiler has joined the Government Relations office in Juneau. Weston previously worked for the Legislature for nearly 10 years, and will be an asset to us as we communicate our message to lawmakers. The two of us are here to bring our collective efforts together to advocate for our university. Our university is full of passionate and knowledgeable professionals who are ambassadors for UA and its mission. I hope I can continue to use you as a resource, and trust you will do the same.

Please let us know if you ever find yourself in Juneau or receive questions from legislators about the important work you’re doing. The university maintains its office in the historic Ebner Building just across the street from the State Capitol, and we’re here for you. I can be reached at:

227 4th Street
(907) 463-3086

Thank you,
Miles Baker

For more information, contact Miles Baker at miles.baker@alaska.edu or visit www.alaska.edu/state.


The second session of the 30th Alaska State Legislature started January 16, 2018. To receive each Capitol Report as its distributed please sign up to the Support UA list serv. To subscribe, please click here!

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This publication is produced and distributed by the Government Relations office of the University of Alaska System with assistance from the UA Office of Public Affairs.

 

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