AKLEG Recap: New budget worries emerge on Day Two

Alaska State CapitolThe Alaska State Capitol as photographed in March 2017. (Photo by gillfoto/Creative Commons)

The Alaska Legislature got to work on Wednesday, holding two committee meetings and mandatory sexual harassment training. Here’s what happened and what to watch for.

Just 88 days (plus an unknowable amount of extra time) to go.

Senate Finance’s new budget concerns

The Senate Finance Committee met with Office of Management and Budget Director Pat Pitney on Wednesday morning in one of the more eventful start-of-session budget overviews in recent memory.

The Senate majority has had enough with big supplemental budgets, with Senate Majority Leader Peter Micciche likening the process to a “blank check.” What’s got them particularly upset this year is a bigger-than-expected request relating to bigger-than-expected Medicaid enrollment in 2017. It’ll cost the state about $100 million, which will negate a large portion of the cuts made last year.

It seems like it’ll give fuel to the anti-Medicaid expansion crowd, but Pitney pointed out that a vast majority of the growth in the 2017 Medicaid population was due to increases in children and single-parent families. Sen. Click Bishop, a moderate Fairbanks Republican, suggested that the uptick might have something to do with the 11,000 jobs the state’s lost in the recession. Medicaid is supposed to be a social safety net, right?

Still, it left Micciche wondering if there’s a point where the state should start considering a cap of some sort on Medicaid. With Trump in the White House, there could be cover for implementing some sort of cap or work requirements, but probably not as long as Walker and Democrats have a say about it.

Changes could still be in store for the state’s public health care programs. Pitney said the state would have to reconsider who it covers if Congress fails to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or tinkers with the federal reimbursement rate for Medicaid expansion.

“It’s uncertain, but the news today is better than the news a week ago,” Pitney said about the future of CHIP.

Oh, and Senate Republicans are telling Walker to get his stinkin’ hands off their compensation.


Senate Education considers new budgeting

The Senate Education Committee held a hearing on Sen. Gary Stevens’ Senate Bill 131, which would set up a separate budget for education that, by law, would need to be to the governor’s desk by April 1.

The idea is that it would give municipalities more time to plan for the budget as they have their own tight deadlines that have been increasingly encroached upon by the state’s glacial budgeting. The bill got high marks from the local school officials that testified at the meeting. They said it would solve a lot of headaches at the local level, allowing them to stop spending a few months every year wondering just how many teachers, if any, they’ll need to lay off. If it’s passed this year, it would go into effect for the 2019 session.

Sexual harassment training

Legislators attended the newly mandatory sexual harassment training Wednesday afternoon, clearing the schedule of all other meetings. As expected, Rep. Tammie Wilson didn’t attend as part of her ongoing feud with Rules Chair Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux and the House leadership. Wilson, who’s demanding LeDoux’s resignation and a third-party investigation, could lose her staff for the move, but no official decision has been made yet, according to KTVA.

What we’re reading

Up next

9 a.m. Senate Finance—Leg. Finance Director David Teal’s FY19 budget overview

10 a.m. House Fisheries—HB 199 by Louise Stutes, fish/wildlife habitat protection

11 a.m. Senate floor session

1:30 p.m. House Finance—OMB Director Pat Pitney’s FY19 budget overview

Senate Labor & Commerce—How Can We Boost Alaska’s Economy?

3:30 p.m. Joint working group on oil and gas—Scoping Meeting Schedule for 2018

6:50 p.m. House floor session

7:00 p.m. Governor Walker’s state-of-the-state address

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1 Comment on "AKLEG Recap: New budget worries emerge on Day Two"

  1. It might be interesting to ask attendees of the newly-required Sexual Harassment Training, what, if anything, did they learn? I’m not being a smart-alec; what did you learn in the meeting that you didn’t already know? When I attended a State-mandated training (2003) I leaned that “you guys” is now a sexist term….

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