by Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky
February 6, 2020
Dear friends + neighbors,
We are digging ourselves out of snow that recently blanketed Alaska’s capital city. I hope you stayed warm through the cold snap that has kept our home region in a deep freeze for several weeks! I am happy to offer you another update on our legislative business this week.
Budget Subcommittee Updates
Health & Social Services
We continue our work in the Department of Health and Social Services budget subcommittee. This week we heard updates from the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), Office of Children’s Services (OCS), Alaska Psychiatric Institute, Senior & Disability Services, the Division of Public Assistance and the Division of Public Health.
Commissioner Crum has requested a new Deputy Commissioner position and three supporting staff positions that would oversee DJJ and OCS. While on the surface a reorganization of the Commissioner’s office seems like a move in the right direction, in an effort to prioritize child welfare issues, I am concerned about adding highly compensated administrative positions while a broad array of essential programs are being faced with significant cuts or elimination. The subcommittee plans to wrap up our work early next week.
Late last week, the Education Finance Subcommittee heard a proposal from the Lower Yukon School District (LYSD) and Anchorage School District (ASD) to collaboratively administer a career and technical education program. Under such a program, LYSD high school students could participate in 9- to 18-week workforce training programs at the ASD Middle College.
On Monday, in a presentation by the Department of Education and Early Development, the subcommittee heard about needed operational support for the Mt. Edgecumbe High School aquatic center, funded by Alaska voters nearly a decade ago, as well as funding for early learning programs. The focus on early learning continued Wednesday, with presentations on proposed grant funding for early childhood services and pre-K schools.
The FY20 Supplemental Request
This week the Governor released a supplemental budget request to the Legislature for $262.5 million in general fund spending, to address a shortfall of funding for state services in the current fiscal year. The supplemental budget proves again that deep cuts carry significant consequences and require careful analysis. Cuts that delay paying bills we know will come due – or worse yet, cuts that prompt successful lawsuits against the State – do not actually result in savings and cause tremendous economic uncertainty. The governor and Legislature must avoid creating needless uncertainty and angst for the state and our economy.
The Governor’s FY20 budget severely underfunded the Medicaid program. Without an injection of funding from a supplemental budget, DHSS will run out of money for Medicaid at the beginning of April 2020. The supplemental budget request from the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget includes more than $128 million in State UGF to keep Medicaid meaningfully funded and Alaskans covered by healthcare through the end of the fiscal year. This will also secure additional Federal funding in the amount of roughly $162 million. This proves, once again, that cuts to Medicaid are not only harmful to Alaskans and health providers, but also unproductive for the fiscal health of Alaska.
ANHB Mega Meeting
On Tuesday morning I joined the Alaska Native Health Board’s (ANHB) annual “Mega Meeting,” to offer an update on health-related issues including: status of the budget subcommittee work, the FY20 DHSS supplemental request, a status report of the Medicaid program in Alaska, and the progress of the 1115 Behavioral Health Medicaid waiver.
We also discussed a few community and public health priority items, including Village Safe Water, Power Cost Equalization, Real ID, and funding for the WWAMI program. Quyana to ANHB and all of the Tribal Health leaders from across the state for the invitation to meet with you.
REAL ID compliance in rural Alaska
Another issue I continue to track closely is the Department of Administration’s support for implementing REAL ID across Alaska. While many Tribal and non-profit partners have stepped forward around the state to help share the impacts of REAL ID in their regions, I remain concerned the Department is not keeping pace or providing adequate resources to communities off the road system to ensure they do not experience undue burden when REAL ID goes into effect on October 1 of this year. I look forward to scheduling a joint Tribal Affairs and State Affairs hearing to discuss specific plans of action with the Department, so that when the implementation deadline hits, Alaskans will be ready.
Friends + Constituents in the office
Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation
It was so wonderful to see my friends from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) in the Capitol this week! We discussed the importance of Medicaid in Alaska and concerns about the timely implementation of REAL ID across the state.
Captain Darren Solesbee
It was lovely to visit with Captain Daren Solesbee this week. Captain Solesbee is the Acting Fire Chief in Bethel. He was in Juneau for the Alaska Fire Chiefs Association conference. I am thankful for Darren’s leadership in helping to form a local arson task force in Bethel following a recent string of arsons in the community.
Jared Kosin, Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association
I had the opportunity to sit down with Jared Kosin, the CEO of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association (ASHNHA), an advocate organization for health care providers of all types across Alaska.
Jared joined ASHNHA’s team in late 2019, and this was our first chance to sit and chat about Medicaid policy and other health care related subjects. It was a fantastic meeting! We both had grins on our faces as it became clear that we share an intense enthusiasm for the promoting the health and well-being of Alaskans.
I very much look forward to working with Jared on health care policy going forward.
Language Resources for 2020 Census
Along with voting, the Census is one of our most important civic duties as Americans and Alaskans. Accurate Census data determines voting districts, as well as the amount of federal money made available to our communities for health, housing, transportation and several other services. Be counted!
Alaska Counts has translated Census materials into various Alaska Native languages. Yup’ik language guides and PSAs are available below. You can also access all of the language resources at:
•Central Yup’ik Census Language Guide
•Hooper Bay Yup’ik and Chevak Cup’ik Census Language Guide
Indian Country Counts
Applications for the second round of Census 2020 Community Grants is now open! Indian Country Counts is National Congress of American Indians’ initiative to encourage all American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) to complete the 2020 Census. A second wave of community grants for community events and efforts in support of the 2020 Census are now available from Indian Country Counts.
More information can be found on the National Congress of American Indians website.
Visit Us in Juneau!
If you will be in Juneau, please come visit me at the Capitol! Contact my office to schedule a time to stop in to say hello. Also, if you are visiting on a day we have floor session, I would be thrilled to introduce you on the House Floor!
I would love to hear from you if you have a suggestion for a legislative citation of importance to District 38!
What is a citation? It is an official document expressing commendation, condolences, appreciation or congratulations to an individual or group.
There are two types of citations:
“Honorarium” recognizes a person, organization, or special occasion.
“In Memorium” honors someone who has recently passed away.
Please feel free to call or e-mail my office if you have any questions.
Contact me or my staff:
Office of Representative Tiffany Zulkosky
Alaska House District 38
Alaska State Capitol, Room 416
Juneau, Alaska 99801