Capitol Report May 3, 2024

May 3, 2024

The Senate Passes the Operating Budget Out of Committee and Plans for Floor Vote Next Week While the House Considers Capital Budget Changes.

With 12 days left in the regular 121-day legislative session, the House and the Senate are both moving quickly toward final budget proceedings and, eventually, adjournment.

On Wednesday morning, the House Finance Committee released its first draft of the capital budget. The revised capital budget includes three great new additions for the university system. The House version of the budget adds funding for deferred maintenance at Mat-Su and Prince William Sound Campuses. This is on top of six ϲʻ deferred maintenance projects selected by the Senate.

All Deferred Maintenance Projects Funded in the Capital Budget:

  1. ϲʻA -  East Campus Learning Hub Renewal Project: Social Sciences Building and ϲʻA/APU Consortium Library
  2. ϲʻA - Major Re-investment in Health (PSB) and Community Engagement (WWA)
  3. ϲʻA - Campus Wide Code Compliance, Emergency Services, and Security Improvements; Roof and Exterior Envelope Replacements; Mechanical/Electrical System Upgrades
  4. ϲʻF - Campus Wide Student Health and Safety; Cutler roof; Patty Pool Compliance
  5. ϲʻS -  Juneau Campus Safety & Regulatory Compliance - covered walkways, security cameras and door-locking systems
  6. ϲʻA - Kodiak Campus Wide: Priority investments in mechanical, electrical, energy egress, exterior doors, and roofs
  7. ϲʻA -  Prince William Sound Campus Wide: Priority investments in mechanical, electrical, fire alarm systems, roofs, campus interiors, and campus accessibility
  8. ϲʻA - Mat-Su Campus Wide: Priority investments in mechanical, electrical, and interior systems

The new capital budget draft includes $2.22 million for the ϲʻF Alaska Railbelt Carbon Capture & Sequestration Project, which wasn’t included in the Senate’s version.

Later Wednesday, the Senate passed the operating budget from the floor. Procedurally, when a bill is passed from its second body, the legislation returns to its body of origin, which votes to accept, or “concur” on, the changes of the second body. If the original body does not concur, a six-person conference committee is selected to negotiate the final terms of the bill. In the case of the operating budget, the bill will be returned to the House, and it is anticipated that they will not concur with the changes. We expect a conference committee to be announced by May 6. The committee will likely begin meeting early next week. The two budgets can be compared , and the university transactions can be compared . Notably, the Senate version doesn’t include ϲʻ’s request for $20 million in one-time funding to reach R1 Research designation status at ϲʻF. This is one of ϲʻ’s most significant operating budget priorities, alongside compensation and fixed cost increases.  Many voices are being raised on this issue.  

ϲʻ comes to an agreement with graduate student workers for a union contract

On Tuesday afternoon, the University System Office announced a “tentative agreement” on a labor contract with the Alaska Graduate Workers Association (AGWA). The contract extends through the end of 2026. It includes provisions to increase graduate student workers' pay and allow extended facility access, time off, and bargaining unit input over health insurance, among other terms. The agreement covers students at ϲʻA, ϲʻF, and ϲʻS. 

Now that the terms of the agreement have been reached, the agreement must be approved by the Board of Regents and the Department of Administration. The Legislature ultimately has the final funding approval of the contract agreement, and it must add in a budget increment for the union before the session concludes for the funding to materialize for FY 25. The ϲʻ Government Relations team submitted a budget amendment, incorporating the terms of the agreement.  Legislative consideration is the next step.     

Priority Legislation

, by Representative Justin Ruffridge (R-Soldonta), was heard on the House Floor on Wednesday and Thursday. The bill eliminates the sunset provision of Alaska’s current education tax credit program. The program allows organizations to receive a tax credit for donations or research contributions to Alaskan educational institutions. The sunset provision requires the program to be reauthorized every few years. Removing the sunset would allow the program to exist in perpetuity.  Notably, the bill was amended on the House Floor by Representative Sarah Vance (R-Homer) to require that any organization receiving tax credits for research contributions make the research available to the state. The Floor debate was the first that many heard of Representative Vance’s idea, and the ramifications still need to be pondered further. The bill passed out of the House by a vote of 35Y-4N. 

In addition to House Bill 144, two other bills exist to extend the education tax credit program. from Representative Julie Coulombe (R-Anchorage) updates Alaska tax credit laws and extends the sunset date to 2028. The bill is currently in the Senate Finance, along with by Senator Jesse Bjorkman (R-NIkiski), which also extends the sunset for the tax credit program.

, the Technical Vocational Education Program (TVEP) reauthorization, was heard in the House Finance Committee Tuesday and will be heard again on Monday morning. If the committee passes the bill, it will need to be voted again on the House floor and then sent to the Senate, where it will need to rush through the committee process and receive approval from the Senate. Several lawmakers, including 5  of the 6 co-chairs for the House and Senate finance committees, have identified this as a priority piece of legislation, so we are optimistic that it will make it through in the 11th hour.

ϲʻ In the Capitol

Next Tuesday at 11:00 a.m., the House and Senate will meet jointly in the House chamber to consider all of the Governor’s appointees to state boards and commissions. This includes the University of Alaska Board of Regents. In 2023, Governor Dunleavy appointed two new members, Stephen Colligan and Seth Church. Lawmakers will ultimately vote on confirming the appointees. The joint confirmation session typically lasts between 2 and 4 hours.

What We’re Watching
Saturday, May 4

  • 10:00 a.m. - House Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled
  • 10:00 a.m. - Senate Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled

Monday, May 6

  • 9:00 a.m. - House Finance: Senate Bill 187 - Appropriations: Capital; Reappropriations; Supplemental / House Bill 55: Extend Workforce Invest Board Allocations
  • 1:30 p.m. - Senate Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled

Tuesday, May 7

  • 9:00 a.m. -  Senate Finance:  Bills previously heard/scheduled
  • 10:00 a.m. - House Finance:  Bills previously heard/scheduled
  • 11:00 a.m. - Joint session: Consideration of Governor’s Appointments to Boards & Commissions 
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled
  • 1:30 p.m. -  Senate Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled

Wednesday, May 8

  • 9:00 a.m - House Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled
  • 9:00 a.m. -  Senate Finance:  Bills previously heard/scheduled
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled
  • 1:30 p.m. -  Senate Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled

Thursday, May 9

  • 9:00 a.m - House Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled
  • 9:00 a.m. -  Senate Finance:  Bills previously heard/scheduled
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled
  • 1:30 p.m. -  Senate Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled

Friday, May 10

  • 9:00 a.m - House Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled
  • 9:00 a.m. -  Senate Finance:  Bills previously heard/scheduled
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled

For more information, contact Director of State Relations for the University of Alaska System Chad Hutchison: cell: 907-378-3946, email: clhutchison@alaska.edu.