by Senator Lyman Hoffman
Congratulation to Representative Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham for his election to his second term as Speaker of the House!
We are finishing week five with Governor Dunleavy submitting his amended operating/capital budgets to the Legislature. It is considered a “balanced budget” where expenditures equal revenues with no draws from the Constitutional Budget Reserve, but when considering current state services, it is a cut to the budget of $1.6 billion. The Senate Finance Committee will be conducting an overview department by department as the finance subcommittees gear up for a more thorough vetting. Refreshing your memory and mine, I am chairing the Education and the University Finance Subcommittees. In addition, the Senate Finance Committee heard overviews on the Alaska Healthcare Transformation Project and the Multi-agency Initiative on Housing and Homelessness.
This week, I met with a few school district board members from the region. Of greatest concern was the proposed $20 million education cut in SB 39: Supplemental and Capital budget. Add on the Governor’s recently proposed operating budget amendment and now we have some major concerns. Education is a priority for me and for other Legislators. Be assured that a robust discussion will take place regarding this very critical issue.
Next week, we will be in Joint Sessions with the House to hear from US Senator Lisa Murkowski on Tuesday, Chief Justice Bolger on Wednesday, and US Senator Dan Sullivan on Thursday.
Senate Finance heard and held SB 37 – Renewal of Vaccine Assessment Program. SB 37 reauthorizes the statewide immunization program in the Department of Health and Social Services, which is scheduled for repeal January 1, 2021. Established in 2014, the program monitors, purchases and distributes all childhood vaccines and select adult vaccines to providers, making access to vaccines universal for all Alaskans. By 2018, the program covered more than 333,000 Alaskans, 45% of the total population. The statewide immunization program is fully funded by the state Vaccine Assessment Account through assessments (upfront fees) from health plans and insurers. There are no undesignated general funds needed for this program.
PFD Applications: https://pfd.alaska.gov/
Deadline to file: 3/31/19