April 28, 2017
With spring beginning and the whaling season starting up north, the Legislature still has work to finish before we can go home.
The Senate passed an operating budget, but unfortunately I could not support it because it cut too drastically into the following: education (early education, K-12, and the University); public safety (VPSOs and domestic violence shelters, public health nursing for example); and, many other services for the most needy. The next step is appointing a conference committee to resolve differences between the Senate and House versions of an operating budget. As the only minority member on Senate Finance, I will be on this conference committee and will keep you posted of any new developments.
The capital budget is still in Senate Finance and we have not heard when that budget will be moved out and onto the floor for a vote.
SB 26, the Permanent Fund restructuring bill passed both the House and Senate but each has a different version. A conference committee was recently appointed to resolve those differences. The biggest differences are whether the PFD is guaranteed at $1,000 for 3 years or $1,250 for 2 years; the amount of funding for and the way the PFD will be computed after that; and, how big of a draw to take for government services.
HB 111 is legislation for oil and gas tax credits. It passed the House and is being heard in Senate Finance.
HB 115 is the income tax bill. It also passed the House and is being heard in Senate Labor & Commerce. After that, it will come to Senate Finance.
These are the main pieces which will have to be resolved before we adjourn. And the House and Senate are far apart on many of these pieces, so I think it is going to take awhile.
I have had many constituents, community leaders, school districts, and other concerned people contact me to voice their concerns over the cuts the legislature has made these last few years, and asking me to submit an income tax. Many of these cuts are being felt by the people in my district. Everything from early education to community jails to the Nome Youth Center to Revenue Sharing/Community Assistance, to public broadcasting, DMV offices, the capital budget, and K-12 Education have experienced cuts. My office routinely gets calls from constituents who have not been able to get their SNAP benefits (food stamps), or even a return phone call, for months because the wait time is so long.
With the economic crisis our state is in, it is going to take a number of actions, not just cuts, to get our heads above water. I cannot stand by while my constituents tell me they cannot take any more cuts, and this is why I submitted an income tax bill. Unfortunately, the Senate leadership will not allow my bill to get a hearing. Luckily, the House passed an income tax bill, HB 115, and the Senate is conducting hearings on this bill in Senate Labor & Commerce.
I have also heard from many constituents regarding ivory bans in other states. I addressed this issue in Senate Joint Resolution 4. I am happy to announce that the legislation advanced out of its first committee of referral but, unfortunately, because of the end of the 90 day session, the next committee won't be able to hear it until we convene again in January 2018.
This session, I am pleased to announce that HB 78: Indigenous Peoples Day, passed both the House and the Senate! This means it just needs Governor Walker's signature to codify the day in Alaska Statutes. This has been a multi-year effort and I am pleased that Representative Westlake was able to shepherd the bill through the process to get it passed this session. I had the distinct privilege of carrying the bill on the Senate Floor where it was nearly unanimously passed by the Senate.
Senator Olson Speaking on the Importance of Indigenous Peoples Day
With the end of the 90 days of session, our First Alaskans Institute Fellow, John Hanlon, completed his internship and is no longer in our office. I want to thank John for his time in our office and wish him well in his next endeavors.
Jim Puckett recently joined my staff. He is a former Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Division of Retirement & Benefits. He is also a former school administrator. I feel lucky to have him on board and hope to put his skills to good use. I think you will find him very helpful and pleasant to work with.
The Governor is calling on all 6 th graders across the state to submit names for two new K9 dogs that are being trained to help combat opioid abuse in Alaska. The names should be relatively short and not too scary or cute. If you'd like to name these new dogs that will make our state safer, please visit:
for the guidelines. The winner will get a special recognition from the Governor and Lt. Governor as well as a visit from the dog and its handler in the fall, in addition to the bragging rights of having named a hero for the state.
I've enjoyed the privilege of having some wonderful people visit me in Juneau:
Barb Amarok- Nome, Norma Holmgaard- Chevak, Liana Pingayak- Chevak, Pius Imgalrea- Chevak, Kiah Charlie-Lower Yukon, Denae Ulak- Lower Yukon, Rob Picou- Lower Yukon, Shawn Arnold-Nome, Dave Herbert- Saint Marys, Melvin Paukan- Saint Marys, Frances Thompson
Saint Marys, Mark Vink- Unalakleet.
Senator Donald Olson