Capitol report

May 7, 2021

Budget Work Continues, Middle College and Bond Legislation Advances

Today is the 109th day of the Legislative Session. Lawmakers have less than three weeks to complete their work and meet the constitutional 121-day limit for regular sessions of the Legislature.

Budget Discussions Continue

Legislators continued discussions on the budget this week, with the House seeking to find common ground in an effort to pass the FY22 Operating Budget. After floor debate on the appropriations bill stalled, the House sent the budget back to the House Rules Committee for additional negotiation and future rescheduling on the floor. In the meantime, the Senate Finance Committee has begun to reveal its proposed version of the budget and will be considering amendments proposed by committee members. The differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget will eventually be bridged via a conference committee. Big decisions still remain around the FY22 spending plan, including the Capital Budget, federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and the PFD.

Bond Bank Legislation Passes House

The House passed legislation to expand financing options available to the University of Alaska. House Bill 127, sponsored by Representative Bart LeBon (R-Fairbanks), gives the university access to the Alaska Municipal Bond Bank Authority’s strong credit ratings. This provides the opportunity to borrow or refinance debt obligations at lower interest rates, helping UA save money. The bill also raises the cap for UA bond financing. HB 127 has been transmitted to the Senate and we look forward to seeing this bill advance in the legislative process.

Middle College Expansion Bill Advances

The House Education Committee has advanced legislation to grow higher education dual-enrollment programs. Senate Bill 32 expands UA’s middle college programs to provide high school students the opportunity to take classes from the University of Alaska. These innovative programs enable students to earn both high school and college credit. UA currently operates voluntary middle college programs in partnership with schools in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Kenai Peninsula College and Mat-Su. SB 32 will be heard in the House State Affairs Committee next Tuesday, May 11, at 3 p.m.

University Leadership Briefs Congressman Young 

Alaska Congressman Don Young visited the UAF campus on May 6 to meet with university leadership on a variety of federal issues. UA Interim President Pat Pitney and UAF Chancellor Dan White briefed the Congressman on ways to enhance forecasting and response to forest fires. 

Our university has taken a statewide leadership role when it comes to emergency services and preparedness. UAF’s Fire Science Program and their Summer Fire Academy, excels at training firefighters to serve federal, state and local agencies. The Congressman met university first-responders, and heard how federal investment can help improve firefighting capabilities across Alaska. Federal support can strengthen firefighting response, and provide the type of facilities needed to train professional first-responders. 

The meeting also included a discussion about the proposed Troth Yeddha’ Indigenous Studies Center and Legacy Park, as well as the Kuskokwim Health Sciences Facility. Thank you to UAF Interim Vice Chancellor Rural Community & Native Education Charlene Stern for presenting the benefit these projects would bring to our university and all Alaska.

We appreciate Congressman Young coming to campus and his support for our university. His visit is an important step as we work to secure funding and legislative support for these vital aspects of our university’s mission. UA Leadership will continue the conversation with the Congressman, and Alaska Congressional Delegation, and about how federal funding and partnership with the University of Alaska can create new opportunities and solutions for our state.