The 64th day of the Alaska legislative session was another busy one. Everyone got a look at the unannounced sponsor of the governor’s upcoming road show, representatives went to work mending the budget and yet another controversial appointee is out.
Here’s what happened.
‘Phase 1’ Medicaid cuts detailed
Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy’s administration released details of its plan to cut $95 million from the state’s Medicaid budget. The governor’s budget calls for some $250 million in cuts to the program, but much of that runs up against federal requirements to apply and receive waivers for the changes—a process that has taken years in the past for other changes.
Health and Social Services Commissioner-designee said he believes these cuts are possible in the upcoming fiscal year with a second phase still being worked out in regards to what’s potentially achievable through the federal waiver process.
KTUU has a thorough roundup of the proposed cuts, but some of the highlights include eliminating adult dental Medicaid benefits, withholding inflation payments, establish a 24-hour nursing hotline to ensure people “get the right level of care at the right time,” put in changes to prevent doctor shopping and limiting adult occupational, speech and physical therapy visits to 12 a year.
The administration say eligibility won’t be affected in this round of cuts.
The $95 million figure focuses on state spending, meaning that the cuts will be larger when you account for the impact on federal matching dollars for the programs. The Alaska State hospital and Nursing Home Association called it a $700 million cut over two years in a Tuesday statement responding to the new details.
“This plan is not well thought out, realistic, or achievable. It is simply a blunt instrument developed in response to the mathematical exercise required by the Office of Management & Budget,” said ASHNHA President Becky Hultberg.
The Medicaid cuts weren’t the only proposed budget changes to be called out for not being well thought out on Tuesday.
The House Finance Fish and Game Budget Subcommittee met on Tuesday where the administration’s proposal to cut two director positions related to subsistence and habitat management would be eliminated in order to fund two unrelated positions within the Office of Management and Budget was met with a cold shoulder from legislators.
“I think it’s nuts,” said Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak.
Stutes criticized both of the cuts, arguing that undercutting both would undermine the state’s responsibility to manage both subsistence and fisheries.
“We could end up with the feds managing our subsistence instead of the state of Alaska and that’s very worrying to me,” she said.
House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, also took issue with the cuts.
“This paints the picture of why I’m having some trouble with a lot of these proposals,” he said. “They’re not thought out very well.”
Minority House Republican Rep. Sarah Vance reluctantly made a motion to include the cuts saying she also understood the concerns, but said she would give the administration the benefit of the doubt when they said the duties could be handled by remaining staff. Majority Republican Rep. Chuck Kopp also agreed.
The vote failed 4N-2Y.
Shaw is out
Trevor Shaw has officially removed his name for consideration for an appointment to the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct, KINY reports. Shaw faced scrutiny for his handling as school board president of a teacher now convicted of sexually assaulting and abusing minors. Both the administration and the school board faced criticism for their softball handling of complaints stemming back years against the now-convicted Doug Edwards.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Peter Micciche took a particularly tough line with Shaw.
“As the reports continued and the investigations continued, I wonder how many victims or how many additional young people were victimized because the district and the school board essentially ignored the repeated occurrences that happened in seven different incidents,” he said. “I guess, the question I have is what policies were being created by the school board, when you were president, to intervene in this situation?”
Anchorage assembly condemns the budget
Add the Anchorage Assembly to the long list of local municipalities that have passed resolutions opposing Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy’s budget, according to KTUU.
“I have long resisted political resolutions, except in extraordinary circumstances. Well, this is an extraordinary circumstance,” Assembly member Forrest Dunbar said. “The budget as currently proposed is immoral.”
A more clever response
While minority Republicans have so far retreated to the standard—and more or less expected—line of criticizing the House Majority Coalition’s upcoming town halls over the cost, Rep. Ben Carpenter at least came up with a more clever response in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
“While I disagree with the amount of public money being spent to promote political agendas ahead of the governor’s events, Speaker Edgmon and the Majority do appear to have recognized the impracticality of Juneau for most legislative meetings,” Carpenter added. “If this is the Majority’s attempt to start moving the legislature to the road system, I’ll consider it money well spent.”
What’s probably less clever is the use of official state resources to pledge his support to the pending voter initiative to move the capital.