Capitol Report 2024

The Capitol Report is a weekly newsletter highlighting legislative actions during the convening of the Alaska State Legislature.

February 23, 2024

The House prioritizes education legislation while the Senate hears public testimony on the FY 25 budget

A recurring theme in the Capitol this session is that the political climate feels like March. The context behind this comment is that March is usually when the contentious budget conversations are in full swing and lawmakers are hunkering down for long days of debating the state budget on the House and Senate floors. This year, while the budget is still in its infancy, legislation relating to education funding has taken on a similar life of its own. 

This week the House largely cleared its committee calendar to make room for substantial debate on Senate Bill 140, the omnibus education bill, containing funding provisions for the Base Student Allocation, teacher incentive pay, and charter schools, among many other measures. When lawmakers initially failed to pass a procedural vote to adopt the most recent committee substitute to the bill, the House was thrown into flux while members worked to negotiate solutions. However, late Thursday night, the body reached a compromise and eventually passed the bill. 

Meanwhile, the Senate moved forward with its budget preparation, taking public comment from across the state on the operating, mental health, and capital budgets.

Notably, even amongst the turmoil in the House, both the House and Senate Finance Committees had time for presentations from President Pitney about the university system’s FY 25 budget request.

Dan Sullivan gives annual legislative address highlighting the University of Alaska

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan gave his annual legislative address to a joint session of House and Senate bodies on Wednesday morning. Senator Sullivan heralded both the Legislature’s and Alaska’s congressional delegations' efforts on the Willow Project reapproval. He touted an estimated $25 billion in additional private and federal investments in Alaska over the next 4-5 years - specifically in tourism cargo, aviation, and national security measures. He noted the workforce needs that come with these big investments, and highlighted the impact of the university system. 

“The University of Alaska system is doing a great job across the state providing an excellent, affordable education. Eighty percent of Alaskans who graduate from the university system stay in Alaska.” Senator Sullivan continued to praise the system with efforts as an arctic research hub.

“A few years ago, I laid out a vision to all of you about making Alaska a future intellectual research hub for so many critical areas that make us unique. Think about it: our vast minerals and natural resources, including boundless renewable energy; our unique role as America’s Arctic; our abundant oceans that we need to keep clean; and our strategic location that enhances America’s national security and provides us with huge economic opportunities.

This vision is becoming a reality and it’s really exciting. Of course, the University of Alaska is doing its part, pulling in over $225 million of research [funds] in the past year—the most they have ever done. But we’re just getting started. Let me give you some examples.

The Department of Defense’s Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies, which Senator Murkowski and I got into law a few years ago, already has 40 of the best minds in the world working on these issues at their headquarters at JBER.

Not to be outdone by DOD, just a few months ago, after a full court press by your congressional delegation, the Department of Homeland Security announced a $46 million grant to UAA to focus on critical Arctic security issues.

And it’s not just Arctic security research where we have made very big progress. The NOAA research vessel, the Fairweather, is finally homeported back in Ketchikan, bringing money and research scientists and the crew of this ship back to Alaska, where it belongs.

We all worked together on this important endeavor for years. I want to thank all of you, especially Bert Stedman and his staff. I will say: The ribbon-cutting event that many of us attended in Ketchikan this past August—on a perfectly clear sky day—was one of the most satisfying celebrations I’ve ever attended!

Finally, you all have heard me talk about my passion for oceans. My Save Our Seas 2.0 Act—the most comprehensive ocean clean-up legislation ever passed by Congress—is now being implemented.

Save Our Seas 2.0 established a congressionally-chartered Marine Debris Foundation, which has enormous potential to bring innovative private sector funds and ideas to ocean clean-up.

For the past two years, I have been relentlessly pursuing this idea: This Foundation needs to be headquartered in Alaska.

Today, I am very pleased to announce that it will be… actually right down the road at an ideal place: the Juneau campus of UAF’s College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and the UAS campus, which already do great ocean-oriented research. The Marine Debris Foundation based alongside these programs has enormous potential.


After a quiet President’s Day, the Senate Finance Committee kicked Tuesday off with a presentation from UA President Pat Pitney about the UA FY 25 budget request. President Pitney provided an overview of the system’s operating and capital requests, and highlighted several of our recent achievements. Senators were particularly interested in our teacher preparation efforts. Watch the hearing here.

The House Finance Committee requested a second hearing about the budget. In this follow-up to last week’s budget overview, members were able to break down our operating requests in more detail.   

UA in the Capitol

In addition to focusing on the UA budget request, lawmakers are expressing interest in UAF’s efforts to become an R1 research institution. R1 is a designation under the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education for research institutions with the highest levels of research activity. Only the top 3.7% of degree-granting institutions are considered R1. To meet the criteria for R1 designation, an institution must bring in more than $50 million in research expenditures, and it must award an average of 70 or more research doctorates each year. 

One of UAF’s strategic goals is to achieve R1 research status by 2027. UAF has consistently been a high-ranking R2 institution. UAF already exceeds Carnegie’s R1 research expenditures by nearly $150 million. However, we need to increase our annual PhD graduates to meet the threshold of 70 graduates. To do so, we’re requesting one-time $20 million funding from the state to help increase the number of incoming Ph.D. candidates and boost the number of annual graduates. The funds will be used to provide graduate student stipends and faculty incentives and to strengthen student support services. 

On Tuesday afternoon, UAF Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Anupma Prakash presented the value of gaining R1 designation to the Senate State Affairs committee. She highlighted the following points:

  1. By reaching the R1 designation, UAF will become even more of an impactful economic driver for the state of Alaska. R1 research activities have the potential for significant expanded economic activity in the state. 
  2. This is an ambitious yet achievable target. UAF is already within arm’s reach of the R1 designation and the one-time $20 million will facilitate meeting this goal. 
  3. Time is of the essence: UAF has planned and gained momentum and will be assessed on its FY24-26 performance.
  4. 45 states already have an R1 institution: Alaska needs to have one to serve as an economic driver for the state. Some states like Texas, California, and New York have multiple R1 institutions.
  5. During the last Carnegie Classification in 2021, 15 institutions made the jump from R2 to R1, bringing positive changes in their enrollments, research, and contributions to their states.

UA Alumni

Simultaneously, UA alumni from all of UA universities were in the building this week. Several individuals flew to Juneau this week to share their experiences as alumni with lawmakers. At an Alumni Lunch and Learn on Wednesday several folks shared the positive impacts the University of Alaska has had on their lives Our UA Alumni are so important to the conversation with the legislature. Their voices, along with our students/faculty/staff make a difference!  


A disagreement over scheduling occurred within the House Education Committee late last week As a result, a hearing that had been anticipated for House Bill 236 - the University of Alaska Deferred Maintenance and Modernization Fund - was not calendared. It is anticipated that the bill will be rescheduled in the near future.

House Bill 148, which improves the Alaska Performance Scholarship (by providing more notice and adjusting scholarship amounts for inflation), is scheduled to be on the House Floor today. Rep. Justin Ruffridge (R- Kenai) has spearheaded this House Education Committee bill, and we’re grateful for his focus on the important issue. President Pitney has stated that HB 148, along with its Senate companion, Senate Bill 56 (SB56), from Sen. Forrest Dunbar (D-Anchorage), are “game changers” for University enrollment.  

Separately, the Government Relations team was pleased to submit a letter of support for House Bill 120 by Rep. Frank Tomaszewski (R-Fairbanks). HB 120 creates a new non-resident student hunting, fishing, and trapping license. A non-resident student enrolled in classes full or half-time would be able to purchase a license at resident cost. This legislation is intended to entice non-resident students to take up new hobbies, fall in love with Alaska, and eventually stick around after graduation. While 80 percent of UA graduates already stay in-state upon completion of their programs, we support additional efforts to attract and retain out-of-state students.

What We’re Watching

Monday, February 26

  • 11:00 a.m. - Joint Session - Address by Mary Sattler Peltola, U.S. Representative
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: House Bill 268: “Appropriations: Operating Budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended”
  • 3:30 p.m. - House University of Alaska Finance Subcommittee: “Q&A: FY25 Operating Budget, Presentation: University of Alaska Fairbanks R1 Research Status”

Tuesday, February 27

  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: House Bill 268: “Appropriations: Operating Budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended”

Wednesday, February 28

  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: House Bill 268: “Appropriations: Operating Budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended”
  • 3:30 p.m. - House University of Alaska Finance Subcommittee: “Q&A: FY25 Operating Budget Closeout”

Thursday, February 29

  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: House Bill 268: “Appropriations: Operating Budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended”

Friday, March 1

1:30 p.m. - House Finance: House Bill 268: “Appropriations: Operating Budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended”


February 16, 2024

UA Takes a Spotlight in the Capitol Amidst a Busy Week

It was a busy week in the Capitol for lawmakers and the University alike. Senator Lisa Murkowski gave her annual Legislative address, the Governor introduced his FY 25 amended budget, the University presented its budget to the House Finance Subcommittee, and several UA priority bills were heard.

Lisa Murkowski Gives Annual Legislative Address

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski and her staff joined state lawmakers in Juneau this week for Senator Murkowski’s annual address to the Legislature. Her speech emphasized recent Federal investments in the state, including $46 million for UAA for the newly established Arctic Domain Awareness Center ARCTIC Center of Excellence, and $1.2 million from the Department of Education for UAA’s School of Social Work. She also touted upward trends in enrollment at the University of Alaska - crediting President Pat Pitney’s vision for the university system. The Senator made a direct appeal for state matching funds for the Alaska Marine Highway System, headstart Pre-K programs, vocational education, and broadband. 


On Tuesday, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the Governor’s FY 25 Amended Budget. The amended budget is an annual update released in mind-February that updates the Governor’s initial Proposed FY 25 budgets with additional increments or decrements. This year’s budget increased the overall operating and mental health budgets by roughly $326 million, bringing the total FY 25 statewide totals to $10.896 billion. The increase was primarily due to an infusion of $302.9 million in federal and other outside funds, while the unrestricted general funds increased by only $20.79 million. Notably, the University of Alaska did not receive any substantial additional funds. 

The Senate Finance Committee will be taking public testimony on the operating, mental health, and capital budgets next week. Please visit your local legislative information office or call in if you'd like to testify. Please make sure to sign up for testimony by 10:15 a.m. on the day you plan to attend.

Public Testimony Schedule

Wednesday, February 21

  •  9:00 a.m.: Juneau, Southeast, Prince William Sound, Kodiak, and Statewide Offnets
  • 1:00 p.m.: Fairbanks, Interior, Copper River Valley, and Statewide Offnets

Thursday, February 22

  • 9:00 a.m.: Nome, Bethel, Kotzebue, Utqiagvik, Unalaska and Dillingham 
  • 1:00 p.m.: Anchorage, Matanuska Valley, and Kenai Peninsula

UA in the Capitol

President Pat Pitney joined the Government Relations team in Juneau this week to provide a UA budget overview to the House University of Alaska Finance Subcommittee. She began the presentation by highlighting our upward-trending enrollment numbers. In Spring 2024, the overall headcount of students was up by 4 percent, while first-time freshmen enrollment increased by 16 percent from the previous year. This is amidst a trend of enrollment decreases nationwide. 

President Pitney shared the FY 25 UA budget request, noting an increase of $29.2 million in unrestricted operating funds. The increase is primarily due to the $14.7 million increase in compensation, $8.5 million in fixed costs (i.e., property insurance, cyber security, maintenance), and $ 6.1 million for State and Arctic Leadership programs. The UA also requests that the Legislature approve a Deferred Maintenance and Modernization Strategy, which would suggests the Legislature annually appropriate at least $35 million towards UA facility maintenance and modernization. A long-term strategy stabilizes the UA System budget while removing the deferred maintenance conversation from the annual capital budget discussion.

The Finance Subcommittee heard briefly about UA’s efforts to achieve Tier 1 Research (R1) Status. Becoming an R1 research institution gives UA national and worldwide acclaim, allows it to submit for more competitive grants, and attracts top-tier researchers from around the world. To reach R1 status, UAF needs to graduate an average of 70 graduate student PhDs annually. The capital budget includes a $20 million one-time request for stipends, technology and staff support, recruiting, outreach, and marketing.  

Separately, university advocates from the Institute of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Extension (IANRE) and the Alaska Center for UAS Integration (ACUASI) were in the Capitol this week. IANRE director Jodie Anderson joined the Alaska Food Policy Council and the Farm Bureau in discussing food security in Alaska. Anderson shared the University’s current agriculture research and outreach advancements with lawmakers. ACUASI met with Sen. Stedman to share drone program advancements and future funding.

Priority Legislation

Several bills that UA is interested in had hearings in committees this week. Sen. Meyers’ (R-Fairbanks) textbook and course materials transparency bill (Senate Bill 13) was passed out of the House Education Committee. It is now in the final stretch and just requires final passage on the House Floor.

The House Education Committee also briefly revisited House Bill 55, reauthorizing the Technical Vocational and Education Program (TVEP). The bill extends the sunset of TVEP - an infusion of $14 million annually into workforce training programs. The University receives $6 million annually from TVEP for its vocational programs. Without the passage of the reauthorization, the University, and our workforce partners, like AVTEC, will lose this critical funding. The bill remains in the House Education Committee. Notably, it still has a long way to go before final passage, including two more committees in the House and the full suite of Senate hearings. 

Legislation relating to extending the Education Tax Credit (ETC) Program is gaining momentum. On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee heard Senator Bjorkman’s (R-Nikiski) Senate Bill 120. The committee heard invited testimony from the University and industry partners on the value of the education tax credits program in training a reliable workforce. SB 120 was heard and held for public comment at a future date. Meanwhile, in the House, similar provisions were rolled into House Bill 89. Initially written to support daycare assistance and the child care grant program, the bill now also includes the extension for education tax credits. The bill was passed unanimously out of House Finance and will likely head to the House Floor next week.

Both the House and the Senate Finance Committees heard their respective bodies’ bills relating to expanding the Alaska Performance Scholarship (APS). House Bill 148, a House Education Committee bill, passed out of the House Finance Committee on  Wednesday, while the Senate Finance Committee heard and held Senator Dunbar’s (D-Anchorage) Senate Bill 56. Among other updates, both bills expand the APS award amount and update the notice timeline.

What We’re Watching

Monday, February 19

  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: House Bill 268: “Appropriations: Operating Budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended”

Tuesday, February 20

  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Finance: University of Alaska FY25 Budget Request
  • 12:00 p.m. - Lunch and Learn: Alaska’s Changing Arctic: Coastal Infrastructure Report by Dr. Amy L. Lovecraft, Director for UAF Center for Arctic Policy Studies
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: House Bill 268: “Appropriations: Operating Budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended” / Overview: University of Alaska FY25 Budget by President Pat Pitney
  • 3:30 p.m. - Senate State Affairs - Presentation: UA Achieving R1 Status and What it Means for Alaska’s Future

Wednesday, February 21

  • 9:00 a.m. Senate Finance: Budget Testimony: Juneau, Southeast, Prince William Sound, Kodiak, and Statewide Offnets / Senate Bill 186: “Appropriations:  Operating Budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended” / Senate Bill 187: “Appropriations; Capital; Reappropriations”
  • 11:00 a.m. - Joint Session - Annual Address by US Senator Dan Sullivan
  • 1:00 p.m. - Senate Finance: Budget Testimony: Fairbanks, Interior, Copper River Valley, and Statewide Offnets / Senate Bill 186: “Appropriations:  Operating Budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended” / Senate Bill 187: “Appropriations; Capital; Reappropriations”
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: House Bill 268: “Appropriations: Operating Budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended”
  • 4:00 p.m. - House University of Alaska Finance Subcommittee: Presentation: University of Alaska Fairbanks R1 Research Status by Anupma Prakash, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor

Thursday, February 22

  • 9:00 a.m. Senate Finance: Budget Testimony: Nome, Bethel, Kotzebue, Utqiagvik, Unalaska and Dillingham / Senate Bill 186: “Appropriations:  Operating Budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended” / Senate Bill 187: “Appropriations; Capital; Reappropriations”
  • 1:00 p.m. - Senate Finance: Budget Testimony: Anchorage, Matanuska Valley, and Kenai Peninsula/ Senate Bill 186: “Appropriations:  Operating Budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended” / Senate Bill 187: “Appropriations; Capital; Reappropriations”
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: House Bill 268: “Appropriations: Operating Budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended”

Friday, February 23

1:30 p.m. - House Finance: House Bill 268: “Appropriations: Operating Budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended”


February 9, 2024

Lawmakers Hear Key University Legislation as Session Moves Forward 

Four weeks into the second session of the 33rd Legislature, lawmakers are beginning to hurdle through legislation to cross the finish line before the end of the session. Bills not passed by the end of the session will die and need to start the legislative process over again in January 2025 with a host of new lawmakers. The University is seeing several of its key priorities scheduled over the next few weeks.

UA in the Capitol

This week, House Bill 236 - the University of Alaska Deferred Maintenance and Modernization Fund - sponsored by Representative Will Stapp (R-Fairbanks) had its first hearing in its first committee of referral. The House Education Committee listened as Rep. Stapp and Paul Mehnke, Ted Stevens Legislative Program intern from UAF, described the need for stable funding for the University to tackle its significant maintenance needs. The Deferred Maintenance and Modernization fund would suggest the legislature appropriate up to $35 million annually to a fund specifically set aside for the University to use towards its deferred maintenance and modernization projects. Lack of consistent, stable funding has led to a significant backlog of maintenance needs. The bill was heard and held in committee, where it will be taken up again with public testimony at a future date.

Dr. Amy Lovecraft, Director of the Center for Arctic Policy Studies at UAF, presented this morning to the House Special Committee on Arctic Policy, Economic Development, and Tourism. She discussed Alaska’s strategic role in Arctic Policy and described the focuses of the Center for Arctic Policy Studies. Topics covered include coastal security and infrastructure, Arctic boundaries and governance, coastal ecology, and coastal connectivity.  Dr. Lovecraft emphasized that the Center’s Alaska’s Changing Arctic: Trends in Arctic Policy Series reports are all available online.

Next week is a full week for UA. President Pitney will be in Juneau to present University budget overviews to the House and Senate Finance Committees. Each year, the University formally presents its annual budget request and enrollment updates to committee members who, in turn, deep dive into budget specifics. The House overview will take place at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 14, and the Senate overview will follow the next morning at 9:00 a.m. The House Education Committee will continue to review Senate Bill 13 relating to course material costs, while the Senate Finance Committee will review Senate Bill 120 relating to extending the education tax credit, and Senate Bill 132 relating to an employment tax to cover the maintenance of education facilities. Lastly, House Finance will hear House Bill 148 expanding the Alaska Performance Scholarship.

In the Spotlight: The Office of Senator Wielechowski 

Senator Bill Wielechowski - Northeast Anchorage

Membership: Chair: Senate Rules; Vice Chair: Senate Resources; Member: Senate State Affairs, Senate Joint Armed Services, Senate Legislative Budget & Audit, Senate Committee on Committees, Senate Special Committee on World Trade

About: Bill Wielechowski has served as Senator for East Anchorage since 2007. He is currently the Senate Rules Committee Chair and Vice Chair for the Senate Resource Committee. In the legislature, he’s been a steadfast advocate for the University of Alaska and K-12 education. Over the years, he’s supported creating the Alaska Performance Scholarship program, additional funding for University programs, University deferred maintenance funding, and building critical new University facilities such as the engineering, nursing, and sports facilities.

Sen. Wielechowski states: “The University of Alaska system is vital to our economy, to keeping our best and brightest in Alaska, and to helping Alaskans fulfill their hopes and wishes. It is absolutely critical that we continue to support our students, faculty, and staff and I remain committed to continuing to fight for the University.”

What We’re Watching

Monday, February 12

  • 8:00 a.m. - House Education: Senate Bill 13: “University: Textbooks/Materials Cost”
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: House Bill 268: “Appropriations: Operating budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended”

Tuesday, February 13

  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Finance: Senate Bill 120: “Extend Education Tax Credits“
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: House Bill 268: “Appropriations: Operating budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended”

Wednesday, February 14

  • 8:30 a.m. - House Finance: House Bill 148: “Alaska Performance Scholarship; Eligibility”
  • 11:00 a.m. - Joint Session: Annual Address by the Honorable Lisa Murkowski
  • 1:30 p.m. - Senate Finance: Senate Bill 132: “Employment Tax for Education Facilities”
  • 3:30 p.m. - House Finance: Presentation: “University of Alaska FY25 Budget Overview by President Pat Pitney”

Thursday, February 15

  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Finance: Presentation: “University of Alaska FY25 Budget Overview by President Pat Pitney”
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: Overview: “Governor’s Budget Amendments”


February 2, 2024

Governor Mike Dunleavy Delivers Annual State of the State Address to Legislature 

After a wintry mix of weather across south central and southeast Alaska delayed flights to and from Juneau, the Governor’s annual State of the State address was postponed one day and held on Tuesday. Lawmakers also received overviews of the supplemental FY 24 budget that was released mid-week. 

State of the State

The Governor spoke in front of a joint audience of House and Senate members in a crowded chamber Tuesday night. In his annual “State of the State” address, Governor Dunleavy emphasized the need to make Alaska a compelling state in which to live. He highlighted his legislative efforts to improve public safety and public education and to lower the cost of energy. He also speculated that Alaska should revisit how we utilize our public lands. He noted his proposals for carbon sequestration and agriculture.   Notably, the Governor did have great things to say about the University of Alaska, highlighting improving enrollment trends and the system’s role in equipping Alaska’s workforce.

“We’ve worked with University leadership to fulfill their mission. That mission is to prepare students for the jobs of today such as nursing and STEM fields, and the jobs of the future in emerging energy technologies, Arctic research, unmanned aircraft, mariculture, and more. Implementing a different approach wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t popular. But like our approach to public safety, the evidence shows we’re making progress. This fall, for the first time in 10 years, University enrollment is up year-over-year. The freshmen class is up 14 percent over last fall and the University reports that 80 percent of its graduates find jobs in Alaska within a year. As a proud graduate of the University of Alaska and the parent of two University graduates as well, this is great news. My proposed budget provides additional resources for the University to attain the highest research certification level available. With your support for these resources, the University of Alaska will be a global leader in the research and workforce development we need for today and tomorrow.“

Click here to watch the whole “State of the State” address.

FY 24 supplemental budget

On Wednesday, the Legislature took its first peak at the FY 24 supplemental budget. Each year the Governor requests appropriations (called supplemental appropriations) that modify the current fiscal year's budget. By law, the Governor must submit supplemental requests to the legislature by the fifteenth day of the session. The legislature may modify and initiate supplemental appropriations throughout the legislative session. Notably, the supplemental budget includes a request from the university system for the extension of our recent economic development research projects in critical mineral and rare earth elements, heavy oil recovery, drones, and mariculture. The extension of these projects allows faculty the opportunity to conduct additional seasonal fieldwork and to field deploy new technology and equipment.   If approved, the extension will allow UA to utilize the funds through FY 26.

UA in the Capitol

The Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) staff was in town on Tuesday to present to the House Energy Committee about energy-related takeaways from a recent trip to Iceland. Watch “What Alaska Can Learn from Iceland's Energy Transition” here.

Lawmakers were also very interested in hearing legislation expanding the Alaska Performance Scholarship. The Senate and House Finance Committees reviewed Senate Bill 56 and House Bill 148, nearly identical legislation that increases the performance award, expands eligibility, and advances the notice of award. Expanding the program allows more Alaskans to take advantage of the scholarship funds which may be used at any in-state higher education institution.

On Wednesday, the House Education Committee had its first hearing on House Bill 55 which reauthorizes funding allocations for technical vocational education programs (TVEP). UA is the largest technical education workforce provider in the state and, accordingly, is the largest recipient of the TVEP funds. Today the same committee is taking up Senate Bill 13 which requires the university to be transparent in listing the cost of all required course materials at the time of registration. 

In the Spotlight

The Office of Representative Justin Ruffridge

Representative Justin Ruffridge - Soldotna

Membership: Co-chair: House Education;  Vice-chair: House Labor & Commerce, House Health and Social Services; Member: House Community & Regional Affairs

Bill sponsorship: HB 144: Repeal education tax Credits Sunset, HB148: Improving the Alaska Performance Scholarships, HB 56: Veterinarians; Controlled Substance Data, HB 112: Profession of Pharmacy, HB 136: Reject Compensation Comm Recommendations; HB 139, Correspondence Study Program Funding, HB 195: Cook Inlet: New Admin Area; Permit Buyback; HCR 3: Suspend Uniform Rules for SB 57 

About: Justin Ruffridge moved to the Kenai/Soldotna area with his family in 1994, when his parents (both educators) braved the journey north to teach at a small Christian school. Justin graduated from high school in 2001 and went on to attend Washington State University graduating with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree in 2008. Justin married his wife Jessie in 2004. After graduation from college, they moved back to the Kenai Peninsula to help care for Jessie’s terminally ill mother. Justin began his pharmacy career at Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, and several years later acquired the Soldotna Pharmacy and the Juneau Drug Company in downtown Juneau with a business partner. Since that time, the partnership also opened the Alpine Apothecary Pharmacy in Girdwood. Mr. Ruffridge has been active in community service including a brief tenure on the Soldotna Planning and Zoning Commission. Justin was appointed to the Soldotna City Council in 2019 and elected to a full term that October. He was the Chair of the Alaska Board of Pharmacy whose purpose is to create and enforce regulations, and the safe dispensing of medications through pharmacies across the State. Justin enjoys coaching Little League in the summer months and has advocated for those in our communities struggling to find housing. During the COVID pandemic, he worked diligently in local communities focusing on prevention, mitigation, and treatment efforts. Justin believes strongly in classical conservative values, represented by a simple truth that effective change is best accomplished over time resulting from constructive dialogue with all parties involved in the decision-making process. This is fundamentally hard work, but it is worth the effort. Creating lasting and meaningful change requires a desire to be humble, an ability to bring people together, and a willingness to learn. Justin Ruffridge was elected in 2022 as the District 7 Representative for the Alaska State House, and he is honored to serve the constituents in Kenai and Soldotna.

Bud Sexton -- Chief of Staff  

Bud Sexton was born in California, and raised in the agriculture-based Central Valley in Northern California in a small farming community. Bud married his wife Kathy in 1991 with three daughters born several years later. Bud’s experience included working for the California State Assembly, and Government Relations for a large healthcare company.

Bud and his family moved to Alaska in 2009 and quickly became involved in the Nikiski community. They were active in their church and Bud volunteered with the Nikiski Fire Department. Recognizing a passion for working in emergency situations, Bud became a full-time Firefighter/ Paramedic with the Nikiski Fire Department before transitioning several years later to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management as the Operations Manager. Mr. Sexton’s work on the Borough’s Incident Management Team included managing and coordinating responses to emergencies and disasters. Bud maintains qualifications as a Public Information Officer with the Alaska Division of Forestry & Fire Protection including deployments on wildland fires in Alaska and the Lower 48 since 2010.

Bud looks forward to serving the residents of Kenai and Soldotna as the Chief of Staff for Alaska House District 7 Representative Justin Ruffridge.

Sabina Braun -- Legislative Aide

Sabina Braun was born and raised on the Kenai Peninsula where her grandparents first homesteaded in the 1960’s and continue to be active members of the community to this day. She graduated from IDEA in 2021 and is currently pursuing a degree in Health Sciences. This is her second year working in the Legislature and she is looking forward to serving the people of the Kenai Peninsula again.

Nora Harbour -- Legislative Aide

Nora Harbour was born in Fairbanks and raised in Alaska, moving to Juneau when she was five. Nora has a strong multi-year background in the service industry and understands the importance of customer service and communication. She has college experience and is planning to attend the Alaska Vocational Technical Center (AVTEC) in the fall. This will be her first legislative session, and she is looking forward to serving the constituents of District 7 in her role with the office of Representative Ruffridge.

What We’re Watching

Tuesday, February 6

  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: House Bill 268: Appropriations: Operating Budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended 

Wednesday, February 7

  • 8:00 a.m. - House Education: House Bill 236: UA Major Maintenance Modernization Fund
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: House Bill 268: Appropriations: Operating Budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended 

Friday, February 9

  • 8:00 a.m. - House Arctic Policy, Economic Development, & Tourism Special Committee: Presentation: “Alaska’s Arctic Policy” by Dr. A.L Lovecraft, Professor and Department of Political Science Director, Center for Arctic Policy, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: House Bill 268: Appropriations: Operating Budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended 

1:30 p.m. - House Judiciary: House Bill 9: Add Faculty Member University Board of Regents

January 26, 2024

President Pitney Raises a Voice for Compensation Increases and Deferred Maintenance Strategy While Visiting the Capitol

This week, lawmakers continued to hear individual legislation, and both the Senate and the House received budget updates from the directors of the Office of Management and Budget and the Legislative Finance Division. Members of both bodies were interested in the University of Alaska’s budget requests: primarily our compensation increases and our deferred maintenance. President Pitney met with lawmakers in person to share updates on both issues as well as the importance of reauthorizing the Technical Vocational Education Program, extending Education Tax Credits, and expanding the Alaska Performance Scholarship program. 

Separately, UAA Provost Denise Runge was in the capitol presenting to both the House and Senate Labor & Commerce committees. In her presentation “UAA Workforce Solutions for Alaska,” Provost Runge shared the great work that UAA and its associated community campuses are doing to build the workforce in critical areas like nursing, process technology, and aviation maintenance, to name a few. You can tune into the presentations here and here.

Advocating in the Capital

One of the most common questions the UA State Relations Office receives from staff and faculty is if they may come to Juneau and advocate for the university system. The answer is a resounding yes. However, there are a few important distinctions to make before visiting lawmakers:

  • As employees of a state entity, university employees are subject to the same rules as other public employees. Public employees may advocate to lawmakers, however, they must indicate that they represent only themselves and are not speaking on behalf of the university system.
  • University employees may not “lobby” lawmakers. The Alaska Public Offices Commission’s Manual of Instructions for Lobbyists and Employers of Lobbyists defines a lobbyist as a person who:
  • 1) is employed or contracted and receives payments, including reimbursement for travel and living expenses, to communicate with any public official to influence legislative or administrative action for more than 10 hours in any 30-day period in one calendar year. Or
  •  2) represents oneself as engaging in the influencing of legislative or administrative action as a business, occupation, or profession

A person who receives no compensation, including reimbursement of personal expenses, and limits lobbying activities to appearances before public sessions of the legislature or public proceedings of state agencies is not considered to be a lobbyist. 

  • University employees may “advocate” in the Capitol. The key critical difference between advocacy and lobbying is that a person who is lobbying attempts to influence the outcome of a legislative or administrative action, while an advocate only educates about specific issues. In other words, university employees may not ask for a specific vote on any legislation, however, they may “educate” a lawmaker about an issue by sharing stories, anecdotes, observations, and concerns about an issue from their perspectives.

Tips for advocacy: 

  1. Know your lawmakers: The Alaska Legislature has a handy map tool that allows a person to identify their representatives and senators. Simply fill in your address and check out the map to find your lawmakers.
  2. Schedule a meeting with your lawmaker before your visit: The legislature posts information about its members and legislation on its award-winning webpage. Office information for each lawmaker is available online and can be used to schedule meetings with representatives and senators.
  3. Know your “pitch”: Lawmakers’ time is extremely limited and meetings may be as short as 15 minutes. If you are speaking with lawmakers, have your “elevator pitch” ready. Be prepared to share your ideas, and concerns right away. If you are just popping in for a social call, please let the office staff know ahead of time so they can find an appropriate time for you to do so.
  4. Be prepared to be flexible: Oftentimes, floor sessions or committee meetings run long. These take precedence over meetings, and you will need to be prepared to reschedule should one of these events occur.

Helpful resources for advocating can be found on the UA State Government Relations website. Check out our “Tips for Advocates” or the “UA System Fast Facts” overview for starters. You can also learn more about the university system's state budget request, our deferred maintenance strategy, and much more. 

In the Spotlight

The Office of Representative Ashley Carrick

Representative Ashley Carrick

Roles: Alaska State Representative for House District 35, which includes the UAF Troth Yeddha’ Campus, and is home to many of the faculty, staff, and students in the UA system. 

Membership: House Labor and Commerce Committee, House State Affairs, House Tribal Affairs, and Tourism Committee, House Labor and Workforce Development Budget Subcommittee, House Commerce Community and Economic Development Budget Subcommittee. 

Bill sponsorship: Rep. Carrick is sponsoring several bills relating to the University, including House Bill 55 to reauthorize the Technical Vocational Education Program, which grants the University and other workforce development institutions around Alaska money to provide technical and vocational education, House Bill 9 to add a faculty member to the Board of Regents, and House Bill 10 - the Textbook Cost Transparency Act - so students have a better understanding of their class costs.

UA Affiliation:  Rep. Carrick has deep roots at the University. She moved to Fairbanks from her hometown of Anchorage to go to UAF, and in 2014 she received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. At her graduation that year, she was selected by her fellow students to be the commencement speaker and additionally received the Marion Frances Boswell Memorial Award for outstanding graduate. Since graduating from UAF, Rep. Carrick has worked as a Rural Alaska Honors Institute advisor. Then, in 2020 she received a master’s in public health from UAA, and in 2022 she was an adjunct professor at the UAF Community and Technical College. As a legislative staffer for former West Fairbanks Representative and University stalwart Adam Wool, Ashley helped pass the largest increase to the University’s budget after 10 years of cuts and flat funding in 2022. Since being elected to the State House, Rep. Carrick continues to be a tireless advocate for the University system and will continue fighting for greater investment in the University, including deferred maintenance funding and investments in workforce development programs. 

Why UA is valuable to Rep. Carrick: “I am a product of our world-class University system, and I have seen first-hand the significant impact that it has on our state. One of my highest priorities is to preserve educational opportunities from pre-k to postsecondary. The University of Alaska is a world-class institution of Arctic research and is a vital economic and cultural asset of Alaska. From employing thousands of Alaskans, to preparing the next generation of Alaskans for the in-demand jobs of the future, to being a center of culture and community, we must continue investing in the University system.” 

Name:   Stuart Relay

Role:    Chief of Staff: Office of Representative Ashley Carrick

UA Affiliation: Stuart lives in Rep. Carrick’s district, two blocks from UAF. He moved to Fairbanks in 2016 to attend UAF and, in 2020, got his Bachelor of Arts in political science. In 2019, Stuart participated in the UA Legislative Internship program at the Alaska State Capitol. After going back to school to finish his degree in the fall of 2019 and spring of 2020, Stuart returned to the State Capitol. He worked for former West Fairbanks Representative Adam Wool, then for Senator Kawasaki, and now for Rep. Carrick. As a student, Stuart served as the President of the Political Science Honors, a student senator for the Associated Students of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (ASUAF), and a student employee for the UA Office of Public Affairs.

Stuart is the point of contact in Rep. Carrick’s office for many things, including University policy and the university budget. He is carrying all her legislation relating to the University and works together with the University and Rep. Carrick to push for their budget priorities.  

Why UA is valuable to Stuart: “For me personally, the University system has been an important part of my life, and I credit it with much of what I have been able to accomplish personally and professionally. On a statewide basis, I know the importance of the University as a world-class research institution and an economic hub that is not only the lifeblood of West Fairbanks but our state as a whole. The University’s success is inextricably linked to the success of its students and faculty, and when they succeed, our society succeeds.”

Name:  Cherie Bowman

Role:  Legislative Aide: Office of Representative Ashley Carrick

UA Affiliation: Cherie first came to Alaska in 1993 to work in a fish processing plant in Naknek. She eventually landed in Fairbanks, which has been her home for over 25 years. She is grateful to have had support from friends and family, which propelled her to return to school and complete her studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where she recently graduated magna cum laude with honors and a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, focusing on Social Justice and Legal Studies, with minors in Paralegal Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. While working on her degree, she assisted the federal TRiO Student Support Services program as a student employee. The program provides extra support to low-income, disabled, and first-generation students. This provided her with great insight as to how students engage with each other, what their needs are, and how UAF can better support them on their academic journey. Cherie has performed at the UAF Pub as a singer/songwriter and appeared in the UAF student poetry publication, Ice Box. These experiences led her to her current position in the Alaska State Legislature as an aide.

Why UA is valuable to Cherie: “I cannot stress enough how supportive the faculty and staff were during my time at UAF. With Alaska facing huge outmigration numbers and the UA system facing significant budget reductions,  it is imperative that we fund and support this system on all levels so that we are able to produce and maintain a workforce that is able to handle the needs of all Alaskans and strives to improve our quality of life.” 

What We’re Watching

Monday, Jan 29

  • 7:00 p.m. - Joint Floor Session: State of the State Address from Governor Dunleavy

Tuesday, January 30

  • 10:15 a.m. - House Energy: Presentation: “What Alaska Can Learn from Iceland's Energy Transition” by UAF’s Alaska Center for Energy and Power
  • 1:30 p.m. Senate Finance: Senate Bill 56: Alaska Performance Scholarship; Eligibility

Wednesday, January 31

  • 8:00 a.m. - House Education: House Bill 55: Extend Workforce Invest Board Allocations
  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Finance - FY 24 Supplemental Request pending introduction and referral

Thursday, February 1

  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance - Overview: FY 24 Supplemental Request by Lacy Sanders, Director of Office of Management and Budget / House Bill 148: Alaska Performance Scholarship

Friday, February 2

  • 8:00 a.m. House Education: Senate Bill 13: “University/Textbook/Materials Cost”


January 19, 2024

The Legislature Returns to the Capitol with an Eye on Education and the Budget

This week, lawmakers returned to Juneau to kick off the second half of the 33rd legislative session. During the session, legislators will review legislation introduced last spring and a host of new bills introduced this year. They will also review the FY25 state operating and capital budgets and the governor’s boards and commission appointments.


In November, the University of Alaska Board of Regents (BOR) met and approved a $337.7 million operating budget request for FY25. The request includes $14.7 million for compensation increases, $8.5 million for fixed cost increases, and $6 million for state and Arctic Leadership, and student support services. Including federal funds and other sources, the UA Board of Regent’s total proposed FY25 operating budget is $921.3 million. 

In addition to the operating budget, regents approved one-time capital requests of $20 million for UAF to reach R1 research status, $6 million for the UAA health workforce expansion programs, and $7 million to expand the UAS mariculture program. The capital request also includes $10 million to continue economic development investment in the UAF Drone Program, and $2.2 million for the carbon capture and sequestration project.

In December, Governor Dunleavy introduced his proposed FY25 state operating budget. The proposed budget includes $319.1 million in unrestricted general fund (UGF) dollars for the university system, including $6.1 million towards UA’s requested 2.5% compensation increases and $4.5 million for fixed cost increases. 

The governor’s proposed FY25 capital budget includes $10 million for UAF’s R1 research status efforts, $5 million for the UAF drone program, $2.2 million for the carbon capture and sequestration project, and $1 million for energy data storage. 

The next step in the budget process is for the Legislature to review the governor’s proposed budget and deep dive into individual government agencies' requests. Finance subcommittees will review agency operations and develop revised budget proposals. Simultaneously, the Governor will assemble an amended request, which will be published in February.

Legislative Progress

The Legislature reconvened on Tuesday, January 16. Among the first orders of business was an effort to attempt to override the Governor’s FY24 vetoes. However, the action failed. Lawmakers will now review the Governor’s proposed FY25 budget and make their own suggestions. 

In addition to the university system's annual operating budget and the one-time capital requests, UA is pursuing a legislative strategy for consistent annual state funding for its deferred maintenance backlog. This session, Representative Will Stapp (R-Fairbanks) introduced House Bill 236, creating a "University of Alaska Major Maintenance and Modernization Fund.” The proposed legislation could allocate $35 million annually to an approved list of deferred maintenance projects. The university has been working in concert with the Governor’s Office and Legislative leadership on the particulars of the legislation. The fund would create much-needed stability for the university system and allow for additional bonding for major maintenance projects.

On top of reviewing the state operating and capital budgets, the Legislature is also responsible for confirming the Governor’s nominees to various state boards and commissions. The Governor appoints nominees to the University of Alaska Board of Regents, who are subject to the same Legislative confirmation process. This session the Legislature will review two regent nominations: Seth Church of Fairbanks and Stephen Colligan of Wasilla. Both regent-appointees will meet with individual lawmakers and present their background to the House and Senate Education Committees before being subject to a joint confirmation vote in the spring.

Other university priorities:

  • Extending the Education Tax Credits program: The Education Tax Credit program, which has been in effect since 1987, allows businesses to write off contributions to qualified Alaskan educational institutions. The current tax credit sunsets January 1, 2025. Two pieces of legislation were introduced in 2023 to continue the program: Sen. Jesse Bjorkman (R-Nikiski) introduced Senate Bill 120 to extend the program, while Representative Justin Ruffridge (R-Soldotna) sponsored House Bill 144 to repeal the sunset entirely. Notably, HB 144 was rolled into Senate Bill 140, an education omnibus bill, in the House Rules Committee this Wednesday. SB 140 also contains provisions for funding internet in schools, increasing the base student allocation (BSA), and adding safeguards for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Public testimony is scheduled for this bill on Saturday, January 20, at 10:00 a.m. The university supports the education tax credit language in SB140 and takes no position on the remainder of the bill.
  • Upgrading the Alaska Performance Scholarship: In 2010, the Alaska Legislature passed legislation that created the Alaska Performance Scholarship (APS). The scholarship aims to retain the brightest Alaska students here in the state. However, a 2023 APS Outcomes Report indicated that student eligibility has dramatically decreased since inception, and only 22% of eligible students utilize the scholarship. Borrowing from recommendations in the report, the Legislature has introduced multiple bills to address expanding the scholarship’s eligibility. House Bill 148, sponsored by the House Education Committee, provides for earlier scholarship award notice, allows for career and technical education credits to be applied toward eligibility, removes the standardized testing requirements, and increases student award level. Senator Dunbar is sponsoring the Senate’s “companion bill,” Senate Bill 56, which is identical to the House version. Both bills have been referred to the Finance committees of their respective bodies.  
  • Reauthorizing the Technical Vocational Education Program (TVEP): In 2000, the Legislature established the Technical Vocational Education Program (TVEP), designating a portion of the Unemployment Insurance receipts for career and technical education. As the State’s largest workforce provider, the University of Alaska has been a major recipient of TVEP funding since the program’s inception. TVEP is currently slated to sunset on June 30, 2024. Representative Ashley Carrik (D-Fairbanks) introduced House Bill 55 to reauthorize the TVEP program.

In the Spotlight

The Office of Representative Will Stapp

Representative Will  Stapp

Roles:   Alaska State Representative - House District 32 (E. Fairbanks, Ft. Wainwright, Badger Rd.), Member: House Finance, Chair: House University Finance Sub-Committee, Chair: House Health & Social Services Finance Sub-Committee

UA Affiliation:  Rep. Stapp attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks to pursue his Bachelor of Arts degree in History. He was President of the Phi Alpha Theta UAF History Honors Society, and a student veteran. As a legislator, Rep. Stapp has advocated for funding the UAF Drone Program, and honored the UAF Student Government with a Legislative Citation. He still regularly appears on campus to engage with faculty and staff, and will ultimately find time to finish his degree program.

Why UA is valuable to Rep. Stapp: “The university adds economic value to the state whether it is through workforce development, worldwide research opportunities, or providing innovative solutions to uniquely Alaskan or Arctic region issues. Investment in the economic drivers such as the university are key to the economic success of the state.”

Name:   Bernard Aoto Jr.

Role:    Chief of Staff: Office of Representative Will Stapp

UA Affiliation:  Bernard attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks and graduated in 2020 as a first-generation student with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Criminal Justice. He was President of the Associated Students of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (ASUAF), President of the UAF Model United Nations club, served as a member of the Pi Sigma Alpha UAF Political Science Honor Society, and a member of the Student Veteran Association. As a student, Bernard advocated for establishing the Student Support Fund, renovating the Wood Center Bowling Alley, and establishing the Festival of Native Arts as an official UAF Tradition. As an alumnus, he advocated on behalf of the university through the UA Alumni Association.

Why UA is valuable to Bernard:  “The university is a pillar of what makes the state of Alaska great. The university emphasizes quality higher education while also serving unique areas such as Arctic research, Alaska native studies, and Arctic engineering. It is through working and interacting with the faculty, staff, and students at the university that allows people like me to better understand complex issues, gain social and cultural competency, and develop connections with the future generations of leaders in Alaska.”

Name:   Clifton Coghill

Role:  Legislative and Finance Sub-committee Aide: Office of Representative Will Stapp

Why UA is valuable to Clifton:  “The University of Alaska (UA) is valuable for several reasons, contributing significantly to the state and beyond. Here are some aspects of the university's value: 1. Education and Workforce Development: • The university contributes to the development of professionals in various fields, including science, technology, healthcare, business, and the arts. 2. Research and Innovation: • The university's research activities contribute to advancements in knowledge and technology, benefiting not only Alaska but also the broader academic and scientific communities. 3. Cultural and Community Impact: • UA campuses often serve as cultural and community hubs, hosting events, performances, and activities that enrich the cultural life of Alaska. 4. Economic Impact: • The university itself is a significant employer and contributes to the local economy through its operations and the spending of students and staff. 5. Alaska's Unique Challenges: • Given Alaska's geographical and environmental challenges, UA is uniquely positioned to address issues like climate change, natural resource management, and sustainable development, providing solutions that are specific to the state's needs.”

Name: Honour Miller-Austin

Role: Legislative Aide for Representative Stapp

Honour was born and raised in Juneau, and is a strong believer in individuality and acknowledges that no one single life pathway works for everyone. After high school, she explored many career paths before finding her passion working within the legislature. She is constantly learning, growing, developing skills, and creating a network of resources. Honour is delighted to bring her passion and enthusiasm to the office.

Name: Paul Menke

Role: UAF Ted Stevens Legislative Student-intern 

UA affiliation:  A relative newcomer to Alaska, Paul came to UAF in 2020 to pursue an undergraduate degree in Political Science. He currently serves in ASUAF Student Government as a Senator. During his time in the Senate, he has successfully advocated for increased financial resources for student academic travel and the prioritization of in-person learning.

What We’re Watching

Saturday, January 20

  • 10:00 a.m. – House Rules: Senate Bill 140: “Internet for Schools” -  invited and public testimony.

Monday, January 22

  • 9:00 a.m. – Senate Finance: Senate Bill 186: Appropriations: Operating budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended / Senate Bill 187: Appropriations: Capital; Reappropriations
  • 1:00 p.m. – House Resources: House Bill 177: “Critical Natural Minerals Plan and Report”
  • 1:30 p.m. – House Finance: Overview of the Governor’s FY 25 Operating Budget by Lacey Sanders, Director of the Office of Management and Budget

Tuesday, January 23

  • 9:00 a.m. – Senate Finance: Senate Bill 186: Appropriations: Operating budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended / Senate Bill 187: Appropriations: Capital; Reappropriations

Wednesday, January 24

  • 9:00 a.m. – Senate Finance: Overview of the Governor’s FY 25 Operating Budget by Lacey Sanders, Director of Office of Management and Budget
  • 1:30 p.m. – House Finance: Fiscal overview of the FY 25 by Alexei Painter, Director of the Legislative Finance Division
  • 1:30 p.m. – Senate Labor & Commerce: Presentation: UAA Workforce Solutions for Alaska by UAA Provost DR. Denise Runge

Thursday, January 25

  • 9:00 a.m. – Senate Finance: Fiscal overview of the FY 25 by Alexei Painter, Director of the Legislative Finance Division