Recognizing Our Past, Planning for Our Future
Senate Majority Budget poll
Earlier this year the Senate Majority (as they do every year) posted an online survey. It was up for three to four days and nearly 7,000 individual responses were recorded - nearly double the responses of the year before.
Constituents in our district were overwhelming in their support of a budget plan that included a broad-based tax (most favored an income tax), adjustment or elimination of the oil tax subsidies, and use of the earnings of the Permanent Fund. There was less support for a reduction in the Permanent Fund Dividend and virtually no support in our district for further cuts. Most seem to recognize that the 44% cuts to the Operating Budget over the past 4 years have taken us to our limit.
While our district (J) has tended to support these types of solutions over the years, what struck all of us here in the building is how many folks statewide believe we are now ready for a broad-based tax (54% of the statewide survey supported an income tax) and how many felt education was either underfunded or funded adequately (requiring no more cuts) - over 70%. We have linked those results here for your review.
I am continuing to echo these themes with my colleagues in an attempt to help secure support for a plan that really does put us on a stable fiscal track for the future and that does so without sacrificing a meaningful quality of life for all Alaskans. I am responding to many of you who wrote comments and if you haven't heard from me, you will soon. Keep writing and keep us on task!
Senate Resolution Honoring Black History Month
This month, I was able to do something many members of the Minority are never given the opportunity to do: pass a Resolution through the State Senate. And for my first piece of legislation, I'm extremely proud that it was a Resolution proclaiming February 2017 as Black History Month in Alaska.
In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson established a Negro History Week to coincide with the birth week shared by President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist leader Fredrick Douglass. In 1976, as part of the nation's bicentennial, President Gerald R. Ford expanded February to Black History Month. African Americans have made tremendous contributions to building this State and ensuring it thrives. SR3 was introduced in order to honor those contributions and ensure that the history of African Americans is remembered and celebrated in this state.
Although there had been Honorarium Citations issued, Prior to SR3, the State of Alaska had never passed a Resolution Honoring Black History Month, this allows the Legislature to highlight the particular impact African Americans have had both on our history and will have on our future.
Not only that, this bill lead to members of the Alaska State Senate honoring African American Alaskans in short speeches on the Senate Floor. Senator Natasha von Imhof talked about Representative  Blanche McSmith; Senator Click Bishop  discussed Elijah "the Real" McCoy and Senator Berta Gardner talked about M. Ashley Dickerson and Senator Bettye Davis. I spoke about John Parks and Ben Humphries.
Special thanks to Ed Wesley, Celeste Hodge Growden, and Cal Williams for their testimony and guidance on this issue and also thank you to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for working together with me to pass this resolution and honor the too often unsung impact that African Americans have had on our Country and our State.
Left to right: Representative Blanche McSmith, Elijah "The Real" McCoy, M. Ashley Dickerson, and Senator Bettye Davis.
Anchorage Caucus
On Saturday, February 25th, the Anchorage Caucus held their annual meeting with the public. Unlike in the past when the meetings were held in the Anchorage Assembly chambers at the Loussac Library, this year's gathering took place at the new Anchorage LIO located at 1500 West Benson Blvd.

The format was also unlike the past. Instead of legislators being seated behind the large semi-circular raised desks that seemed like a barrier separating them from their constituents, both legislators and their constituents stood or sat at tables together. Instead of waiting for hours and lining up to speak for three minutes at a microphone, people took turns asking questions and actually engaging in conversations. Spread throughout two floors of the building, those attending were able to speak with the senator and two representatives from their district.

As expected, the main topic was the budget deficit. Legislators and the public talked about what they felt were the best solutions to deal with multi-billion-dollar budget gap. Moving from table to table you could hear the arguments for and against income and sales taxes, restructuring of the Permanent Fund, budget cuts and oil tax credits.

As my staff and I left, it seemed that most of what I heard from many of you was aligned with what I learned from the poll I wrote about earlier. We can't cut anymore without severe economic consequences; don't decimate our school funding further; look seriously at a broad-based tax; adjust the oil tax subsidies; and if we must, use some portion of the Permanent Fund earnings without severely jeopardizing the dividend program in the long term for Alaska's future generations. I hear you clearly and will proceed accordingly.

A brief introduction... I met the Senator almost as soon as I met my husband-to-be, Rep. Max Gruenberg, 26 years ago.  Tom was then a legislative aide to Max and we've stayed close enough friends to feel he was a part of our family. There is a tiny shelf in Tom's office, and his office welcomed me to stop in to organize my Close-Up work here.  Tom asked me to write a little about what I've done here in Juneau, as he thought you might be interested.
For the past 14 years, I've been a Close-Up instructor, teaching middle and high school students from North Pole to Akiak, down to Ketchikan, how our state government works.  It's a one week program.  To give you some idea of our days, on Monday we start with the legislature.  We tour the Capitol building, watch a floor session, and meet with a lobbyist to learn how to accomplish the community project they brought with them.  The students receive bills and are assigned a pro or con position.  The day ends with the bills' sponsors speaking for their bill and other legislators speaking against them... 3 bills, 6 legislators.  Legislators, the Governor, Lt. Governor, or their staff, prison guards and prisoners, lawyers, judges and so many more do their best to make our students feel welcome and share what they know.
My passion is to empower our students.  Some years the students learn for themselves how powerful they can be. It doesn't often happen but this year one student testified to a joint education committee, one student found a legislator willing to sponsor her bill, another changed a regulation, and one of our job shadow students was offered a job when she graduates.  I've often thought we should have an adult version but I'm retiring this year and someone else can take that on.
I'll be assisting Tom and his office with their newsletter and policy research throughout the session now, and will write again next month.

Kayla Epstein  

Join us for our annual constituent
pizza party to discuss your
ideas, concerns, issues, and priorities

Senator Tom Begich & Representative Les Gara
Saturday, March 25th from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Fairview Recreation Center
1121 E. 10th Avenue
Senator Tom Begich & Representative Geran Tarr
Saturday, March 25th from 2 to 4 p.m.
Clark Middle School Multi-Purpose Room - 150 Bragaw Street

Senate District J
Mountain View Community Council 
Monday, March 13, 2017  |  7:00 p.m.  
Mountain View Community Center, Boys & Girls Club, (Downstairs) 315 Price Street
Airport Heights Community Council  
Thursday, March 16, 201 |  7:00 p.m  
Airport Heights Elementary School, 1519 Alder Drive
Government Hill Community Council 
Thursday, March 16, 2017  |  6:30 p.m.  
Government Hill Elementary School, 525 E Bluff Drive
Downtown Community Council 
Wednesday, April 5, 2017  |  5:30 p.m.  
Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center
625 C Street Fairview

Russian Jack Community Council 
Wednesday, April 12, 2017  |  6:30 p.m.  
Wonder Park Elementary School, 5101 East 4th Avenue
Fairview Community Council 
Thursday April 13, 2017  |  7:00 p.m.  
Fairview Community Center, 1121 E. 10th Avenue
South Addition Community Council 
Thursday, April 20, 2017  |  7:00 p.m.   
Inlet View Elementary School, 1219 N Street  
Last-minute Pitch for a
Great Summer Job Experience
The Anchorage Park Foundation and the Municipality of Anchorage are delighted to announce that there are currently looking to fill their 2017 summer YEP crew! This is an incredible 10-week program where teen crew members learn natural resource management job skills by building trails and restoring stream banks, while also increasing civic engagement, environmental awareness, and leadership skills.
This is the best first job one could have!

They are looking for 20 Youth Employment in Parks crew members. Applicants must be Anchorage residents, ages 16-19, and in high school or a GED program. Applications are due Sunday, March 19th by 5 p.m.!
Learn more about the YEP program and positions and apply at the muni jump here

Please share this job opportunity with your favorite teen and your friends, neighbors, and colleagues!

Bill Walker
Contact Senator
Tom Begich

Juneau AK, 99801
Phone: (907) 465-3704
Fax: (907) 465-2529

Lt. Governor
Byron Mallott
Alaska Senate Democrats, Capitol Building, 4th Avenue & Main Street, Juneau, AK 99801