Let’s Keep in Touch!

Good morning –

Here we are at the end of April with the Legislature continuing their work on how to address our State’s fiscal deficit. Both the Senate and the House have passed legislation that conforms to their chambers fiscal plans. And of course, there are many differences. Here is a list of legislation that is under consideration:

• HB 57: FY18 Operating Budget, status/awaiting conference committee appointments

• HB 111: Oil & Gas Production Tax, status/scheduled hearings Senate Finance Committee

• HB 115: Income Tax: PFD Payment/Credit, status/scheduled hearings Senate Labor & Commerce Committee

• SB 25: Motor Fuel Transportation/Maintenance Fund, status/awaiting scheduling Senate Finance Committee

• SB 26: Approp Limit; PER Fund Dividend; Earnings, status/conference committee appointed – Senator(s) MacKinnon/Chair, Hoffman, Egan and Representative(s) Foster, Seaton, and Thompson

There are many factors to weigh when considering each bill and how they will impact our Alaskan citizens. Reports will be forthcoming on all of these bills as they reach final passage.

I have been appointed to be on the conference committee for SB 26: Appropriation Limit, Permanent Fund Dividend/Earnings. Both the Senate and the House versions use a portion of the earnings of the Permanent Fund for state government services; both change how the annual dividend is calculated by implementing a POMV system; the Senate version provides $1,000 dividend per person for 3 years while the House version provides $1,250 dividend per person for 2 years; plus other differences. Again, I will send you a final report once it has passed the Legislature.

Senate Finance Committee Special Hearing

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a special hearing to review the Senate’s fiscal solution, today (April 28) at 9 am, including a thorough vetting of the plan by the independent, nonpartisan Legislative Finance Division. The public is welcome to attend in Juneau, and can watch live online at akl.tv.

Despite significant budget reductions over the last four years, the state faces a $2.8 billion deficit this fiscal year. While the House, Governor, and Senate agree the solution must include responsible use of Permanent Fund earnings to help pay for government and dividends, there is a difference in how to fill the remainder of the gap.

The Senate proposes capping government spending at today’s levels, and drawing from the Constitutional Budget Reserve to cover the deficit – without depleting those reserves. The House and Governor want to implement a substantial new income tax.

Lyman F. Hoffman, Alaska State Senator
Senate District S
Juneau, AK
Senate Bill 5

There’s a very important bill stuck in the Democrat-led House Majority Coalition that needs to be on the books in order to stop corruption in the Capitol.

SB 5 is sponsored by Senator Kevin Meyer (R, Anchorage) and has already passed the Senate unanimously.

SB 5 prohibits groups controlled by legislators or legislative staff from soliciting and accepting contributions or from making certain contributions and expenditures during a regular or special legislative session; and prohibits lobbyists from making campaign contributions to groups controlled by legislators who live outside their districts.

SB 5 was introduced by Meyer after the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) ruled on a complaint filed by the Alaska Democratic Party against the formation of Gabby’s Tuesday PAC, a group controlled by current House Rules Chair Gabrielle LeDoux (R, Anchorage).

The problem with groups controlled by a legislator is that it provides yet another way for lobbyists, unions and other moneyed-interests to funnel large amounts of money towards certain legislators and legislative candidates.

As it is, lobbyists are prohibited from making contribution to legislators and legislative candidates outside their districts.

APOC stated they couldn’t prohibit LeDoux’s group because existing campaign finance and lobbyists laws and regulations needed to be changed by legislators to address such groups.

Fortunately, Meyer heard their call for action and drafted SB 5. His decades of experience as an elected official on the Anchorage Assembly, House of Representative and Senate has shown him that it’s best to curtail the power and influence of lobbyists and moneyed-interests.

Meanwhile, the lack of controls on LeDoux’s group has created a monster.

Before session began this year there were rumblings from lobbyists who received calls from LeDoux. She squeezed them to contribute to her group… or else. They understood they needed to pay in order for their clients’ interests to get any play in the legislature. LeDoux’s ‘pay-to-play’ scheme is fundamentally corruption at its most basic level.

Then, LeDoux was elected into a leadership position by House Democrats to control the flow of bills as House Rules chair, a powerful position.

The lack of controls on LeDoux’s group also gums up the works in the legislature as she hurls threats at fellow legislators and others. Such a sordid culture of intimidation has not been seen since the 1990’s when another representative from Muldoon ruled the House.

Former House Speaker, the late Ramona Barnes, was renowned for her heavy-handedness. Nothing happened in the House without her say-so. Barnes was generous to her political allies and a menace to her foes.

The seeds of the VECO corruption scandal, when the FBI raided legislative offices in 2006, were planted with the rise of Barnes to leadership positions in the early 1990’s. Barnes’s power grew through the years as her relationship with VECO CEO Bill Allen, lobbyists and other moneyed-interests solidified.

Do we truly want to go back to a time when lobbyists and moneyed-interests dictated what happened in our Capitol in Juneau?

SB 5 is currently stuck in the House Community and Regional Affairs (CR&A) committee, one of three committees the House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (D, Dillingham) assigned it – in order to kill the bill.

The other committees include State Affairs and Judiciary.

Multiple communications to the committee chairs have been sent.

Repeated emails to CR&A co-chairs Rep. Zach Fansler (D, Bethel) and Rep. Justin Parish (D, Juneau) to hear the bill have gone unanswered. Obviously, they don’t seem to want to prevent and stop corruption in our Capitol.

State Affairs chair Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D, Sitka) has also shown no interest in corruption prevention as he’s also not responded to emails.

Surprisingly, Judiciary chair Rep. Matt Claman (D, Anchorage) responded with encouragement to push for SB 5’s passage – if it ever got to his committee.

It’s time for the Democratic-led House majority to oust LeDoux’s as Rules chair.

Then they need to do everything possible to put SB 5, a very important and much-needed bill, on the books before LeDoux and her ‘pay-to-play’ scheme further destroys their ability to effectively legislate without more undue influence, intimidation and threats this session.

Andrée McLeod
Anchorage, AK

Get Your Benefit Statement Online

Social Security is with you through life’s journey, putting you in control of your finances and future. With this in mind, we have made getting a replacement Social Security Benefit Statement even easier. Now you can instantly print or save a replacement any time you want. That’s control!

The Benefit Statement, also known as the SSA-1099 or the SSA-1042S, is a tax form Social Security mails each year in January to people who receive Social Security benefits. It shows the total amount of benefits you received from Social Security in the previous year so you know how much Social Security income to report to the IRS on your tax return.

An SSA-1042S is for a noncitizen who lives outside the United States and received or repaid Social Security benefits last year.

If you currently live in the United States and you need a replacement form SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S, simply go online and get an instant, printable replacement form with a my Social Security account at www∙socialsecurity∙gov/myaccount.

If you already have a my Social Security account, you can access your online account to view and print your SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S. If you don’t have a my Social Security account, creating a secure account is very easy to do and usually takes less than 15 minutes.

Keep in mind, your Social Security benefits may be taxable. Visit www∙socialsecurity∙gov/planners/taxes.html if you have other substantial income.

Securing today and tomorrow doesn’t have to be difficult, and Social Security continues to improve our customer service with easy-to-use online features. Find out more about what you can do online at www∙socialsecurity∙gov.

Robin Schmidt
Social Security Administration
Alaska Public Affairs Specialist