Rep. Louise Stutes speaks during the crab dinner at the Reluctant Fisherman on Saturday, March 24, 2018. File photo by Emily Mesner for The Cordova Times

By Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak 

The Legislature has been focused on the Governor’s proposed budget. Last week, the House Finance Committee considered 100 amendments to the operating budget (HB 268), adopting 37 amendments.  

Of interest were: 

  • Added $20 million in Unrestricted General Funds (UGF) to ensure the Alaska Marine Highway System receives funding even if federal grants are lower than the governor’s budget projects. The shortfall could be as high as $38 million; 
  • Added $20 million UGF to the Community Assistance Program Deposit, resulting in a $90 million balance at the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 25 to ensure a $30 million distribution to communities in FY 26; 
  • Increased the Disaster Relief Fund by $15.5 million (UGF) to ensure expeditious responses to disasters; 
  • Added $1.2 million in UGF for public broadcasting grants that will be directed to rural public radio, especially important for emergency broadcasting; 
  • Added $7.5 million in UGF one-time funding to make childcare centers across the state more sustainable through grants that help with operating costs and increases to employee salaries; 
  • Added $2 million UGF of one-time funding to provide increases to adult day service providers via Department of Health grants; 
  • Removed $598,600 UGF from the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC), an amount equal to the cost of AGDC’s highest-paid executives and eliminated their positions; 
  • Converted a one-time $3.7 million to the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (CDVSA) to a permanent part of the base budget. The council provides grants to women’s shelters across Alaska and conducts DVSA prevention programs. 

Major issues of education funding and the amount of the permanent fund dividend remain unresolved.  

This week the operating budget will be on the House floor to consider amendments. After passage, it will proceed to the Senate for further review. Any disparities between the two versions will be addressed in a conference committee. Once adopted, the governor has line-item veto power over the final budget. 

Internet Funding for Rural Areas 

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The governor signed HB 193, providing access to federal grant funds that will allow rural districts access to the Broadband Assistance Grants (BAG) to increase internet speeds. This is great news for Kodiak. 

Capital Budget 

The Senate Finance Committee took its first action on the Capital Budget, by adopting SB 187, version B on April 5. The next hearing will be on April 10.   

State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) 

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has approved the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities’ (DOT&PF) toll credit program. This enables the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) to utilize tolls (fares) to fulfill state match requirements. This is fantastic news as the toll credits will facilitate funding to replace the aging Tustumena (which serves Southwest and Southcentral Alaska) with AMHS’ first diesel-electric hybrid ferry. Additionally, the credits will support repairs and upgrades to ferry terminals, as well as work on other AMHS vessels. 

Finally, please remember I work for you. Please reach out to me with any questions or concerns on these or any other issues important to you and your family. 

Sincerely,  

Representative Louise Stutes  

Proudly serving Kodiak, Cordova, and Seward 

[email protected]  

(907) 465-2487 

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