State Relations

The Capitol Report 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):, 907-465-4457

Representative Chris Birch (R-Anchorage):, 907-465-4931

Representative DeLena Johnson (R-Palmer):, 907-465-4958

Representative Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage):, 907-465-4939

Representative Gary Knopp (R-Kenai):, 907-465-2693

Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka):, 907-465-3732

Representative Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage):, 907-465-4998

Representative Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage):, 907-465-2095

Representative Adam Wool (D-Fairbanks):, 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

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

Senate Labor & Commerce – SB 116 Education Tax Credits

House Finance University Subcommittee - Providing a Skilled Alaskan Workforce

Senate Finance Committee - University Budget Overview

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

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 30th anniversary 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:

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 or

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 or visit

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:

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:

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 or

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 or visit

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 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 or at, 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 or visit

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!

Click HERE for the archive of 2017 Capitol Reports covering the first session of the 30th Legislature.

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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