by Senator Lyman Hoffman
This week in Senate Finance I got an amendment passed on the operating budget to add an additional $825,000 to UAF to add a permanent full-time position for the Educators Rising program.
This program steers high school students into the teaching profession. Retention of quality teachers has been an issue plaguing Rural Alaska. This amendment would broaden the existing program with the goal of increasing the number of home-grown Alaskan educators.
The program encourages Alaskan High School students to consider and begin preparation early for careers as educators. Four courses will be offered to students as electives while they are in high school.
This week we had the operating budget HB 39 on the Senate Floor. The operating budget took up most of the time with deliberation on amendments to the bill. There were 25 total amendments, only two of them were adopted on the floor.
The operating budget includes $4.3 billion in unrestricted general funds for agency and statewide operations. When comparing operating budgets year to year, this operating budget is a reduction of $258 million (UGF) from last year’s operating budget. The budget passed included pre K grants. The Senate version of the operating budget uses $1.94 billion to pay for a PFD of $3,000. The bill proposes moving $12 billion from the earnings reserve to the corpus of the permanent fund, giving the corpus a total of $58.1 billion, and leaving $6.4 billion in the earnings reserve.
Unless the House concurs with the Senate’s budget and on a $3,000 dividend, the amount of the dividend will still be up for debate. The differences on what the dividend will be will likely be worked out in conference committee. HB 39 passed by a vote of 19-1.
Alaska Marine Highway System
On Sunday May 5th in Juneau at Auke Bay Ferry Terminal the M/V Tazlina will be newly added to the fleet of ferries. M/V Tazlina will be taking over for the northern southeast route that had been serviced since 2004 by the M/V Fairweather. On May 18th the M/V Tustumena will be back in service. The Tustumena is the second accredited ocean-going vessel in the fleet. The timing of this vessel coming on line for service will critical for serving the summer needs of rural Alaskans. The Tustumena was built in 1964 to replace the M/V Kennicott.