The House Finance Committee has passed the FY17 operating budget representing roughly a $280 million reduction over FY16 numbers. This brings the state closer to a sustainable target for spending. Many difficult cuts are proposed but the operating budget fully funds K-12 education and maintains current funding for AMHS. All changes, such as cuts to the University, are subject to negotiation between the House and Senate in the coming weeks.
My focus is to balance the budget and prevent unsustainable cuts to vital services such as AMHS, K-12 education, and behavioral health. Additionally, as Chair of the Alaska Court System and Department of Environmental Conservation Subcommittee budgets, we have worked to implement cost saving measures, such as furloughs and half day court closures, to prevent job loss.
Despite challenging times, I am pleased with the Finance Committee’s decision to strengthen behavioral health funding. These funds will be focused on a three year pilot project to better equip communities in dealing with drug and alcohol addiction. With heroin addiction at unprecedented levels, investments in prevention and rehabilitation are needed.
Additionally, an amendment passed allocating funds to create a new public integrity unit within the Department of Law. The public integrity unit was formed in response to the high rate of prisoner deaths in 2016.
The House Finance Committee will next turn to oil tax credit reform and revenue bills, including the three Permanent Fund Earnings concepts: HB 224; HB 245; and HB 303/SB114. To stay engaged in the process visit the Alaska State Legislature website where you can view committee schedules, bill status, and watch meetings live online, or call me at 465-3744 for updates.