State Relations

The Capitol Report

February 20, 2017

The Capitol Report
By Miles Baker
Associate Vice President Government Relations

Happy President’s Day. Today is the 35th day of the legislative session.

Last week was a busy one for the University here in Juneau, with three committee hearings and President Johnsen’s State of the University address.

On Thursday morning, President Johnsen presented the University’s FY18 Operating Budget to the Senate Finance Committee. You can watch President Johnsen and get committee presentation materials here:

The Senate Majority has announced a three-part plan to begin closing the state’s $3 billion budget deficit: establishing a statutory annual spending limit, restructuring the management of the Permanent Fund and cutting $750 million from the operating budget over the next 3 years. Article 9 Section 16 of Alaska’s constitution establishes an annual appropriation limit, but in practical application, the language hasn’t prevented the operating budget from continuing to grow during high revenue years. The Senate is proposing either constitutional and/or statutory reforms that will tie operating budget growth to changes in population and inflation. The Senate, like the House, is also evaluating proposals for managing the Permanent Fund more like an endowment, with a portion of annual earnings being available to fund government operations.

Of particular concern to the university, is the Senate’s proposal to cut $750 million from the state’s operating budget over the next three years. The plan calls for a 5%, $300 million reduction this year, another 4% next year and 3% the following year. Finance Committee members have indicated that they will be looking to specifically reduce the largest general fund budget recipients, those include K-12 Education, Health & Social Services, and the university. Below are the top five unrestricted general fund budget requests this year.

  1. Dept of Education & Early Development   $1,297 million
  2. Dept of Health & Social Services  $1,063 million
  3. University of Alaska   $325 million
  4. Dept of Public Safety  $155 million
  5. Dept of Transportation   $146 million

As we all know, the university has already taken a significant $53 million (14%) reduction over the last three years. This year, the Governor’s $325 million request for the university is already $16.3 million (5%) below the $341 million requested by the Board of Regents. A 5% reduction from the Governor’s number represents an additional $16.3 million reduction. We will be advocating aggressively for the legislature to not only maintain our current funding but to consider growing their long-term investment in the university. Please stay tuned for opportunities to weigh in on this critically important issue in the days ahead.

In other important budget news, this Thursday, February 23rd at 4:30 p.m. the House Finance University Subcommittee will hold its final hearing on our FY18 budget request and is expected to close out their budget review. Subcommittee members are required to have any budget amendments turned in by 5:00pm today. The subcommittee is soliciting public input on our budget through 5 p.m. tomorrow, February 21. They are using the Legislative Information Office’s Public Opinion Message System to facilitate that process. Your input will be considered by the subcommittee as it develops budget recommendations to send to the full House Finance Committee. If you wish to send an online POM go to: I encourage you to share your thoughts on the university, the university's budget, or on programs or activities that are important priorities to you. When communicating with the legislature please do not use university email or other university resources, and please do so on your own time, such as during lunch or after work. There will be an opportunity to provide public comments on the budget later in the process.

Other Events of Interest from Last Week

President Johnsen delivered his annual State of the University address to a packed house at the Hanger Ballroom in Juneau Thursday at noon. This year’s event was part of the Alaska Chamber and the Juneau Chambers Business Roundtable lunch series. President Johnsen outlined the many strengths and serious challenges facing the university. Because of these challenges it’s critical that “we keep our eyes on what we can be, what we must be, and the assets we have to build the university and the state we all want.” He declared our greatest strength is our people—faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors, and partners. Video and transcript of the address are posted at You can also watch 360 North’s recording of the address here

Thursday afternoon, Dan White VP Academic Affairs and Research, delivered a presentation to the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee on how the university is supporting economic development through innovation. Dan outlined the benefits of commercializing university research and innovation, the effort being made to identify and protect the intellectual property of our innovative faculty and students, and highlighted some of the exciting examples of faculty-led startups and new technologies being developed at our campuses. You can watch the hearing and get committee presentation materials here:

Also on Thursday, the House Finance University Budget Subcommittee held its third meeting on our FY18 operating budget. President Johnsen and Michelle Rizk, VP University Relations reviewed with the committee the Education Tax Credit, the university’s athletics programs, several categories of tuition waivers, and our participation in the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE) and its student exchange programs. You can watch the hearing and get committee presentation materials here:

Coming Up This Week:

Today at 9:00 a.m. President Johnsen discussed the university’s land grant deficit with House Education Committee. You can watch the hearing and get committee presentation materials here:

Today at 3:30 p.m. President Johnsen will give a similar land grant deficit presentation to the Senate Resources Committee.

Tuesday, February 21st at 10:00 a.m. the House Fisheries Committee will hold a hearing on the Kodiak Seafood & Marine Science Center (KSMSC) by the Alaska Resource Consortium. The committee will be discussing a resolution that proposes the legislature should continue to strongly support KSMSC and urging the university to find a solution that keeps the center in operation.

Wednesday, February 22nd at 11:00 a.m. U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski will address a joint session of the legislature.

Also on Wednesday the UAA Justice Center will be participating in a “Lunch and Learn” at 12:00 p.m. Dr. Lindsey Blumenstein will be presenting results from the Alaska Victimization Survey and the University of Alaska Campus Climate Survey. The event is organized by the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

Thursday, February 23rd at 11:15 a.m. the Senate Finance University Subcommittee will hold its first hearing on the university’s FY18 operating budget. Senator Natasha von Imhof is chairing the subcommittee, which also includes Senators Anna MacKinnon, Gary Stevens, and Berta Gardner.

Friday, February 24th at 10:30 a.m. U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan will address a joint session of the legislature.

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

For more information, contact Miles Baker at or visit

February 13 Capitol Report

February 13th, 2017

The Capitol Report

By Miles Baker

Associate Vice President, Government Relations


Today is the 28th day of the legislative session. It’s difficult to believe but by the time this week is over, we will be one-third of the way through the regular 90-day session. 

I’m happy to welcome several important university advocacy groups to Juneau this week. The Coalition of Student Leaders arrived Saturday for their annual Legislative Conference. Student representatives from all three universities are here to participate in valuable policy discussions and to advocate for the university. I was honored to speak with the students yesterday morning and to participate in their legislative priorities discussion. Also joining me in the Capitol this week are representatives from each of our three alumni associations who have come together this year for a joint “UA Impact” fly-in. Both groups have busy agendas that include meetings with individual legislators over the next several days. The interest and enthusiasm they demonstrate for the university is incredibly valuable to this process.

Most of the excitement in the Capitol last week centered on the introduction of two major pieces of legislation by the House Majority Coalition.

HB 111, introduced on Wednesday by the House Resources Committee, scales back some of the state’s oil and gas tax credits. The bill establishes a 4 percent production tax floor, reduces the per barrel credit, and reduces the net operating loss (NOL) credit. Sponsors estimate the bill could result in $100 to $300 million in additional revenue to the state at $70 per barrel oil. House Resources Committee hearings are scheduled for today and Friday.

HB 115, introduced on Friday by the House Finance Committee, is the Majority Coalition’s fiscal reform package. The bill restructures the Permanent Fund to allow 4.75 percent of its overall market value to be drawn off annually with one-third of the revenue paying dividends and the remaining two-thirds paying for state services. Under the proposal, dividends would be approximately $1,100 and the general fund would receive approximately $1.5 billion to $2 billion annually. The bill also establishes a new income tax of 15 percent of an individual’s federal income tax and a capital gains tax of 10 percent. The taxes would raise an estimated $655 million annually once fully implemented. HB115 is the latest of several Permanent Fund restructuring proposals introduced this year. For the sixth year in a row, the state will have to draw on its savings accounts to balance the budget. But with only another year’s worth of savings available, serious conversations are happening about how the Permanent Fund’s earnings will be part of the revenue mix going forward. HB 115 is scheduled for four hearings in the House Finance Committee this week, with a round of public testimony set for Friday at 1:30 p.m.

In University related news: Wednesday morning, President Jim Johnsen provided an overview to the Senate Education Committee. President Johnsen discussed the university’s mission, the “65 by 2025” education imperative, the correlation between income and educational attainment, Strategic Pathways, the regents’ 10-year budget glide path, and the Board’s highest priorities for continued investment. President Johnsen outlined the significant impacts that three years of budget reductions have had across the entire system. He noted that the university is the number one Arctic research university in the world. That work helps attract graduate students from all over the world and improves the quality of education in the classroom, while solving Alaska specific problems and informing global climate policy. You can watch President Johnsen and get committee presentation materials here:

Thursday afternoon, the University of Alaska House Finance Budget Subcommittee held its second meeting on UA’s FY18 operating budget. Dan White, VP Academic Affairs and Research presented for the university. Dan explained the “65 by 2025” education imperative, UA’s partnership with the state Department of Education and Early Development and outlined UA’s early plans for increasing enrollment and retention. You can watch Dan and get committee presentation materials here:

Friday afternoon, Dr. Ralph Townsend, director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), participated in a House Finance Committee hearing on fiscal policy planning and forecasting. Dr. Townsend and the team at ISER continues to demonstrate their value to policy makers in Juneau. Dr. Townsend reviewed the tax options available to the state and emphasized the importance of multi-year fiscal planning to mitigate risks of depleting the Permanent Fund’s earnings reserve. You can watch Dr. Townsend and get committee presentation materials here:


Coming Up This Week:

Wednesday is the statutory deadline for the Governor to submit his FY18 budget amendments. The legislature can always consider amendments after that date, but for those amendments to be considered in the legislature’s normal budget process, they must be transmitted by the 30th day of the session. 

Wednesday, February 15th at 8:00 am the House Finance Education Subcommittee will be discussing the Alaska Post-Secondary Education Commission, WWAMI program, Alaska Performance Scholarships and the Student Loan Corporation.

Thursday, February 16th at 9:30 am President Johnsen will present the University’s FY18 Operating Budget to the Senate Finance Committee. This is the first Senate Finance hearing on the University’s budget.

Thursday, February 16th at 12:00pm President Johnsen will give his annual State of the University address at the Hanger Ballroom in Juneau. The event is part of the Alaska Chamber and the Juneau Chamber’s Business Roundtable lunch series. Doors open at 11:30 and the program begins at noon. Video and transcript of the address will be posted at

Thursday, February 16th at 1:30pm Dan White, VP Academic Affairs and Research, will be part of a Senate Labor & Commerce Committee hearing on economic innovation. The hearing is being held in conjunction with the Juneau Economic Development Council’s Innovation Summit in Juneau this week:

Thursday, February 16th at 4:30pm the University of Alaska House Finance Budget Subcommittee will hold its third meeting on the university’s FY18 budget. The topics expected to be covered include the Alaska Education Tax Credit, athletics, and indirect expenditures.


New Legislation of Interest to the UA Community:

HB 11 (Kawasaki) – would implement a temporary, voluntary program to allow employees enrolled in PERS (Public Employees’ Retirement System) or TRS (Teachers’ Retirement System) an ability to retire up to three years early.

You can find an index of legislation we are following this session here:

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

For more information, contact Miles Baker at or visit


February 6 Capitol Report

February 6th, 2017

The Capitol Report

By Miles Baker

Associate Vice President, Government Relations


Today is the 21st day of the legislative session. The regular 90-day session is scheduled to end on April 16th.

As is tradition, particularly in the first year of a two year legislative cycle, legislative standing committees spent the first several weeks familiarizing themselves with some of the major policy areas they are expected to review. Finance Committees received revenue and budget presentations from the Governor’s OMB Director, the Revenue Commissioner and their own Legislative Finance Director. Education Committees met jointly to receive overviews of the Department of Education, the state’s K-12 funding formula and the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Senate Labor and Commerce Committee led by Anchorage Senator Mia Costello held several days of hearings on Alaska’s economy.

On January 20th the House Finance Committee initiated public hearings on Governor Walker’s FY18 operating budget. Over the last two weeks, every major state agency has been called on to provide brief overviews to the committee. University President Jim Johnsen appeared on Tuesday January 31st to present the University’s budget. President Johnsen discussed the university’s education, research and service mission. He introduced the “65 by 25” educated workforce imperative, the Strategic Pathways initiative, the regents’ 10-year budget glide path, and highlighted the highest priority areas for continued strategic investment. This year the committee gave very specific parameters for how they wanted agencies to present their budgets. As required by state budgeting protocols, the university reports its budget by the three program categories that align with our primary missions: student instruction, research and service. Institutional support and physical plant costs are distributed proportionally across each of these three categories. President Johnsen outlined the programmatic allocation of the university $917 million FY18 budget: $635 million (71%) towards the Student Instruction category, $189 million (21%) to the Research category, and $75 million (8%) to the Service category. Importantly, President Johnsen outlined the significant impacts that three years of budget reductions have had across the entire system. You can watch President Johnsen’s presentation here:

Co-Chairman Paul Seaton who is managing the House operating budget process, is taking a somewhat non-traditional approach this year. Instead of forming separate budget subcommittees, the responsibility for detailed budget reviews has been assigned to an existing House standing committee. The standing committees will then convene as finance subcommittees chaired by a member of the House Finance Committee. The University of Alaska’s budget subcommittee consists of the members of the House State Affairs Committee with the addition of finance member Representative David Guttenberg who chairs the group. The University budget subcommittee in the House is:

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)

On January 31st the budget subcommittee held its first hearing. President Jim Johnsen provided an overview of the university, our strategic objectives, FY18 budget request and responded to a variety of committee questions. The hearing and presentation materials can be viewed here

The subcommittee has scheduled three more hearings and is expected to complete their work and report their recommendations back to the full House Finance Committee by February 24th

Thursday Feb 9th 4:30pm

Thursday Feb 16th 4:30pm

Thursday Feb 23rd 4:30pm

The Senate has yet to begin their detailed review of the FY18 budget, but on February 1st, the Finance Committee announced budget subcommittee assignments. The University’s budget subcommittee in the Senate will be:

Senator Natasha von Imhof, Chair (R- Anchorage)

Senator Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage)

Senator Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River

Senator Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak)

The University’s Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) is playing a prominent role in the early legislative policy discussions here in Juneau. ISER is at the forefront of fiscal policy analysis in Alaska and the institute’s work is helping policy makers better understand the state’s financial challenges and the options available to address them. Of particular interest is the financial model ISER has developed for estimating short- and medium-run economic effects of various policy changes. The legislature’s reliance on ISER’s faculty and research is an excellent example of the tangible benefits continued public investment in the university’s research institutions provides. ISER Director Dr. Ralph Townsend, Associate Professor of Economics Mouhcine Guettabi, and Professor Emeritus Gunnar Knapp have all participated in hearings over the last several weeks:

Jan 18th 1:30pm Senate Labor & Commerce – What do we know about Alaska’s economy?, Mouhcine Guettabi

Jan 19th 1:30pm Senate Labor & Commerce – Moving Alaska’s Economy Forward, panel featuring Ralph Townsend

Jan 24th 3:30pm Senate State Affairs – Alaska’s Economy, Ralph Townsend

Jan 25th 1:30pm House Finance – Modeling Alaska’s Fiscal Proposals, Gunnar Knapp

Jan 26th 12:00pm Lunch & Learn – Modeling Alaska’s Fiscal Proposals, Gunnar Knapp

Feb 2nd 3:30pm Senate State Affairs – Questions on Alaska’s Economy, Ralph Townsend

Coming Up This Week:

Wednesday, February 8th at 8:00am University President Jim Johnsen will be providing an overview of the University to the Senate Education Committee.

Wednesday, February 8th at 11:00am the House and Senate will be meeting in Joint Session to hear the State of the Judiciary Address by Chief Justice Craig Stowers.

Wednesday, February 8th at 1:00pm and Thursday, February 9th at 9:00am, the House and Senate Joint Task Force on Civics Education will be discussing the release of the Task Force’s preliminary report.

Thursday, February 9th at 4:30pm the House Finance University Subcommittee will hold its second budget hearing. The topics expected to be covered are: the 65 by 2025 educated workforce imperative and the university’s recruitment, retention and enrollment strategies.

Friday, February 10th at 1:30pm, Dr. Townsend is scheduled to appear before the House Finance Committee to take part in another discussion on Alaska’s economy.

Saturday, February 11th – Tuesday, February 14th: The Coalition of Student Leaders and the University of Alaska Alumni Associations will in Juneau for their fly-ins. I look forward to working with both organizations to make these advocacy trips as memorable, fun and effective as possible. 

New Legislation of Interest to the UA Community:

HB71/SB31 (Governor Walker) –The bill freezes pay increases, merit increases, pay increments, bonuses and comparable salary increases for non-union public employees for two years. Approximately 5000 public employees, including those university employees not covered by a collective bargaining agreement, will be impacted by this freeze. However, the Board of Regents already established that no across the board increases would be approved for non-covered employees in FY18 so this legislation is not expected to have an immediate impact on the university’s budget. On January 31st, the House State Affairs Committee held a preliminary hearing on the legislation

HB 64/SB 27 (Drummond/Dunleavy) – Creates a task force on reading proficiency and instruction; and on the effects of dyslexia on some students. UA would have one representative on the 15 member task force. On January 30th, the House Education Committee held a preliminary hearing on the legislation

SB 12 (Bishop) - Institutes an education facilities, maintenance and construction payroll tax. Tax proceeds are intended to be used for the educational facilities maintenance and construction fund (AS 37.05.560) from which money can be appropriated to maintain UA facilities. No House companion at this time.

SB 17 (Costello) – Establishes the Stevens-Inouye Exchange Program, a reciprocal educational exchange between the University of Alaska and the University of Hawaii for students pursuing political science degrees. The program is intended to commemorate and honor the long friendship and productive bipartisan relationship between Republican U.S. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska and Democrat U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii. No House companion at this time.

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

For more information, contact Miles Baker at or visit

What tools are available for following a legislative hearing? Find out here

The staff list for the 30th Legislative Session has now been published

January 23 Capitol Report

January 23rd, 2017


The Capitol Report


Miles Baker

Associate Vice President, Government Relations


Greetings from Juneau and welcome to the Capitol Report.


Last Tuesday, the 30th Alaska State Legislature gaveled-in to begin the first day of their 90-day legislative session here in Juneau. While there are many familiar faces in the building this year, we have an unusually large freshman class of both legislators and staff. Nearly one-quarter of the elected members are new and the House will be led by a bipartisan coalition. It’s clear that the entire legislature will need a little more time than normal to settle in.


My name is Miles Baker and I’m the new Associate Vice President, Government Relations. I’m extremely honored to be at the University of Alaska and working on your behalf. It’s my job to advocate for the university’s policy priorities, legislative agenda, and most importantly, our operating and capital budgets. I’ll be based in Juneau for the duration of the session, working out of the office the university maintains in the historic Ebner Building just across the street from the State Capitol.


I’ve been working in and around the legislature for over a decade, and have a good understanding of the people and the institution. But this is a huge team effort. I’ve spent the last two months better educating myself about the university, familiarizing myself with our priorities and preparing to represent you full-time here in Juneau. During my orientation I met faculty, staff, students, alumni, and business leaders. Every one of them is a passionate and knowledgeable university advocate who communicated a willingness to devote time and energy to help advance our interests. I hope I can continue to use you as a resource, and trust you will do the same.


Over the course of the legislative session, you will be receiving periodic communications from me designed to keep you up to date on important developments in Juneau. When there are opportunities to advocate on the university’s behalf, we want you to know. We’re also in the process of improving the information and resources available on the UA Government Relations webpage, so please check back on a regular basis. This year, in addition to our FY18 budget, we’ll be working to reauthorize the Technical Vocational Education Program and the Alaska Education Tax Credit. We also intend to raise awareness within the legislature of our critical land trust deficit in the hopes of achieving a near-term resolution at the state and federal level.


These are challenging and consequential times for the state and the university. Declines in both oil production and price have resulted in Alaska’s unrestricted general fund revenues dropping from $9.5 billion in FY12 to just $1.4 billion this year and are projected to be only slightly higher in FY18 at $1.6 billion. For the sixth year in a row, the state’s general fund revenues are not sufficient to cover annual operating expenses. Running $3.0 billion annual deficits has forced dramatic reductions in state spending and drawn down the state’s primary savings accounts.


Governor Walker’s FY18 budget proposal maintains total spending at roughly last year’s $5.0 billion level. With general fund revenue only expected to cover 32% of those costs, the Governor’s proposal includes a $2.5 billion draw from the permanent fund earnings reserve, a motor fuel tax increase and a two-year salary freeze for non-unionized public employees. Even if these proposals are approved, the state will still have an $800 million structural deficit in FY18. Consequently, the Walker administration has indicated that they expect additional revenue measures to be part of the legislative discussion this session.


Advocating for the university’s annual operating and capital appropriations is our most important task. As you know, our budget has been cut by $53 million (14%) over the last three years and we expect continued pressure from the legislature this year. While the Governor’s budget proposal holds our funding at last year’s $325 million level, it’s $16.3 million less than the Board of Regents’ request. The Regents also requested $50 million in capital funds for deferred maintenance. Those funds were not included in the administration’s budget proposal.


The House Finance Committees will start operating budget hearings this week. University President Jim Johnsen is scheduled to appear before the committee on Tuesday January 31st at 1:30pm to present the University’s FY18 operating request. You can stream this hearing online at or at, or watch it on television on 360 North. We will keep you updated as other budget related hearings are added to the calendar.


I look forward to working closely with you this year. If you find yourself in Juneau or have any questions, I can be reached at:


227 4th Street

(907) 463-3086


Thank you


Miles Baker


Other Resources:


Last Wednesday evening, Governor Walker addressed a joint session of the legislature to deliver his annual State of the State. Video and transcript are both available.


The legislature is still updating its public information. As it becomes available, we will update the Government Relations website. In the meantime, these recently updated resources are available:


Legislators by District 

Legislators Contacts 

Legislators Toll-Free Numbers

Legislators Photos

Committee Assignments

House Finance Subcommittee Assignments

Session Calendar

Legislative Information Offices Directory

BASIS – (Bill Action Status Inquiry System)

The first session of the 30th Alaska State Legislature started January 17, 2017. 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 2016 Capitol Reports covering the second session of the 29th Legislature.

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


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