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Alaska State House Majority Caucus Adjournment Press Release - Majority Highlight 2nd Session Accomplishments

Priorities of repaying CBR debts, controlling operating growth, addressing state energy policy and goals, and in-state gas storage and use all accomplished

Monday, April 19, 2010, Juneau, Alaska – The Alaska State House today adjourned the second session of the 26th Alaska Legislature. Alaska State House Majority Caucus leadership spent the bulk of the two-year legislative lifespan focusing on restraining state agency operating budget growth, repaying past legislature’s debts to the Constitutional Budget Reserve Fund, forward-funding education, researching and addressing energy costs and generation statewide, restoring the confidence of voters in the election process, and continuing to advance an in-state gasline project. The Caucus also addressed, where appropriate, revisions and expansions to oil and gas development tax credits and incentives, including Cook Inlet exploration, development, and gas storage.

“We had an aggressive agenda and many moving targets to aim for,” House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said. “This Caucus, in this Legislature, was able to tackle a wide range of issues while meeting our constitutional mandate to pass the budgets. I am thankful for the leadership team, committee chairs, caucus members and their staff for pushing and refocusing our efforts. Alaskans sent us to Juneau with a purpose and I believe we can return to them with results. We kept operational spending down, focused on creating jobs, protecting families, and keeping the pressure on in-state gas delivery.”

“We set energy policy and direction, settled a major visitor industry lawsuit and strengthened campaign and initiative disclosure laws,” House Majority Leader Kyle Johansen, R-Ketchikan, said. “I am very pleased with our success.”

Leadership and the Finance Committee members scrutinized the governor’s proposed Fiscal Year 2011 budget, eventually agreeing in conference committee to trim $28 million from the governor’s amended proposal. The FY 11 Operating Budget allocates $4.439 billion in state general funds, $1.808 billion in other funds, and $1.937 in federal funds. The Fiscal Year 2010 Supplemental Budget authorizes repaying the CBR $401 million, fully-repaying the state’s rainy day account. It also authorizes setting aside $1.116 billion to forward-fund FY 11 education costs.

“We began the budget process this year with savings, putting $1.1 billion into our savings accounts to forward-fund education and appropriating $400 to pay off the State’s debt to the CBR,” House Finance Committee Co-Chair Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, said. “The governor offered a frugal FY 11 operating budget that we carefully examined and were able to tighten up with an aggregate reduction in general funds of $21.7 million. The operating budget meets the state’s needs without excessive spending.”

The FY 11 Capital Budget authorizes a total of $3.03 billion, with $1.47 billion in state general funds, $554 million in other funds, and $1.01 billion in federal funds on statewide deferred maintenance, roads, schools, university, and community infrastructure projects.

“The Capital Budget carries a number of legacy projects that cover the state, from the $75.5 in general funds for the Anchorage State Crime Lab and $57 million for the Port Mackenzie rail extension to the $40 million for the Tanana River bridge and the funding for the Arctic magnet school,” House Finance Committee Co-Chair Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak/Mat-Su, said. “I would have built this budget differently but I believe every Alaskan will benefit from it. We offered a general obligation bond package with statewide reach; funded more than $440 million in statewide road projects; $285 million to our airports; and, in general, focused on including projects with a federal match and create jobs.”

“This session was a year of firsts in many respects,” House Rules Committee Chair Nancy Dahlstrom, R-Eagle River, said. “The passage of the omnibus energy bill and state energy policy sets Alaska on the right path for the future of renewable and sustainable energy. The major infrastructure projects in the capital budget will help stimulate the economy in our state and create jobs for Alaskans. This session was a success, with the collaborative efforts of House Leadership and all members of the House.”

In addition to time spent on the budgets, the Majority spent considerable time discussing and researching a wide range of issues, including the impacts of the budgets and state fiscal policy.

“All in all, I think everything was very well done. There are always little glitches as you go along through the process,” House Majority Whip Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak, said. “The level of respect, from the Finance Committee to the Majority/Minority relationships, was welcome. The camaraderie and working relationships were the better part of it, because I think we do good work down here – especially when we can come together. There was less in-fighting among the caucuses and it allowed us to focus on the policy and finance issues.”

Legislative highlights include House Bill 269, legislation creating the Joint In-state Gasline Development Team; House Bill 280, the Cook Inlet Recovery Act, which aims to incentivize gas storage in the Inlet and provide working tax credits and incentives to re-energize exploration and development; HB 306, the historic statewide energy policy brought forward by the Special Committee on Energy; HB 36, the Open and Transparent Initiative Act, which reforms the state’s voter initiative process; resolutions, including HCR 22, creating the Alaska Northern Waters Task Force to give Alaska a say in the developing Arctic policy being forwarded by the federal government; and agreeing to place constitutional amendments before voters to cap state spending and increase the number of state legislators.

“I found that you can make some differences in the Majority; It covered the state well,” Joint Legislative Bush Caucus House Co-Chair Reggie Joule, D-Kotzebue, said. “So many of the issues that used to be contentious were no longer there, and that can be attributed to the Speaker. He wanted to make room for all of us and he extended that offer. That was the highlight, even though it was difficult because I left some very good friends behind in the other caucus. The legislature has always been about building relationships and that’ what we did this session in the Majority, and it worked out – that was the highlight.”

The 26th Alaska Legislature passed 269 bills and resolutions out of a total of 911.

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