State Relations

The Capitol Report

April 25, 2014

The Capitol Report
By Chris Christensen, Associate Vice President, State Relations

End of Session Status  (Click HERE to download as PDF)

Ninety-five days after it began, the Second Session of the 28th Alaska State Legislature adjourned on April 25th. This was five days later than planned. In a year with a $2.3 billion budget deficit caused by declining oil production and lower oil prices, UA’s operating budget was reduced but it received a larger than expected capital budget.

We now await the governor’s action on legislation and on the FY15 operating and capital budgets. Once a bill has passed the legislature and is sent to the governor, he must sign it or veto it within 15 days if the legislature is in session (not counting Sundays) or within 20 days if the legislature is not in session (not counting Sundays). In the case of a budget bill, the governor may veto any individual appropriation contained in the bill; he is not limited to vetoing the bill in its entirety.

Typically, the legislature does not actually send the budget bills to the governor for signature or veto immediately after passage. Instead, the bills are held for a period of time, sometimes for more than a month. This delay allows the Office of Management and Budget and other agencies extra time to review and recommend items for signature or veto.

UA had some significant disappointments in a difficult year, but we also had some major successes, thanks in large part to the advocacy efforts of UA supporters throughout the state. UA advocates came out in large numbers at all public hearings on the operating and capital budgets, as well as on certain other bills like SB 176 (guns on campus). If you testified or sent messages in favor of the university, thank you!

The following is a summary of legislative actions this year. Details of the FY15 Operating Budget and the FY15 Capital Budget can be found by clicking on the links. 

FY15 Operating Budget

Gov. Parnell took the first step to implement a reduction in state spending when he announced his FY15 budgets on December 12. His operating and capital budgets proposed that the state spend 18.4 percent less in general fund dollars than current year spending. For the UA operating budget, the governor proposed a $14.9 million reduction from the current year’s funding level, but he also proposed adding $5.3 million to partially cover new expenses, such as the employee pay raises and operating costs for new buildings that are due to open this year. UA’s net cut in the governor’s proposed operating budget was $9.6 million below the FY14 level. ( www.alaska.edu/files/state/FY15-Budget-Data-Summary-Final.pdf )

The House and the Senate decided that the governor’s proposal, as stringent as it was, didn’t cut enough from agency operations. So, they cut even more. After the House and the Senate passed their respective versions of the operating budget, a conference committee made up of three member of each body met to reach a compromise on the differences between the two versions. Conference Committee members this session included:

  • Sen. Pete Kelly (Senate Finance Committee Co-Chair)
  • Sen. Kevin Meyer (Senate Finance Committee Co-Chair)
  • Sen. Lyman Hoffman (Senate Finance Committee Member/Minority Caucus)
  • Rep. Alan Austerman (House Finance Committee Co-Chair)
  • Rep. Bill Stoltze (House Finance Committee Co-Chair)
  • Rep. Les Gara (House Finance Committee Member/Minority Caucus)

Once the conference committee reached an agreement, the House and the Senate voted to adopt the compromise budget on the 90th day of the session.

This compromise is the version that will be sent to the governor. The FY15 state budget for all-agency operations that was approved by the House and Senate is about $50 million less than the FY14 budget. You may recall that the FY14 all-agency operating budget was also about $50 million less than the FY13 budget. This downward trend will continue next year and into the foreseeable future. The operating budget is contained in two bills, CCS HB 266 and CCS HB 267, which can be found here: http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=HB%20266&session=28http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=HB%20267&session=28 

Unfortunately, UA’s operating budget was decreased from its FY14 budget. The legislature approved a UA operating budget for FY15 that has a 2 percent reduction from the FY14 budget in unrestricted general funds. The budget included an unallocated reduction of $15.9 million, a 12.5 percent travel expenditure reduction, and about $8.34 million in increased funding for fixed cost increases like new building operating costs and salary and benefit increases. The budget includes the following reductions, increases for fixed costs, and increases for high demand program initiatives:

Reductions that were made:

  • Unallocated General Funding Reduction - $15.9 million
  • Reduction to UA Travel Expenditure - $1.06 million (most state agencies were also given a 12.5% reduction to their travel funding) 

Fixed cost increases that were funded:

  • Compensation increases - $5.11 million state general funds (UGF), $5.11 million Receipt Authority (DGF)
  • Systemwide Facilities Maintenance & Repair - $1.08 million UGF and $1.08 million DGF (one-time only; this funding will not be in the budget after next year)
  • UAA Alaska Airlines Center operations - $1.61 million UGF and $1.78 million DGF
  • UAA Mat-Su Valley Center for Arts & Learning - $540,000 GF and $75,000 DGF 
  • UAS Freshman Residence Hall - $425,000 DGF
  • UAF P3 Housing Development - $1.5 million DGF 
  • Total fixed cost increases that were funded - $8.34 million UGF, $11.39 million DGF

High demand program requests that were funded:

  • Student Achievement and Attainment -
    • UAF and UAS Mandatory Comprehensive Student Advising - $400,000 UGF (one-time only; this funding will not be in the budget after next year)
  • Productive Partnerships with Alaska's Public and Private Industries -
    • UAS Director of UAS Center for Mine Training - $90,000 UGF and $27,800 DGF
  • Legislative priority programs for UA -
    • UAF Hydrocarbon Optimization - $500,000 UGF (one-time only; this funding will not be in the budget after next year)
  • Total high demand program requests that were funded - $990,000 UGF, $27,800 DGF

You can find a chart with a side-by-side comparison of the Board of Regents’ request and the legislature’s final operating budget at this link:

http://www.alaska.edu/files/state/FY15-Operating-Budget.pdf

Unfortunately, many worthy initiatives the Board of Regents requested were not funded this year. Because the state is in a deficit situation, the legislature was not receptive to the idea of adding substantial new program funding. Instead, the focus was on funding most of UA’s existing functions and fixed-cost increases, and preparing for a future with less revenue. It is anticipated that expenses will exceed available revenues for some time to come, and we have been warned that we can expect even tighter operating budgets from this point forward.
 

FY15 Capital Budget

The capital budget (HCS CSSB 119 FIN AM H) that passed the legislature can be found here: http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=SB%20119&session=28

Like last year’s reduced capital budget, it is noticeably smaller than capital budgets from the recent past, and it will probably get smaller after the governor has reviewed it and exercised his veto authority.

UA had great success in the capital budget process this year. While we certainly did not get everything we asked for and some of the omissions are disappointing, we did get more than we expected in this budget environment. The UA projects that are in the legislature’s FY15 capital budget include the following:

  • UAA Engineering Building Project - $45.6 million UGF

This amount completes the project, including finishing the new building, renovating the existing building, and building a parking garage.

  • UAF Engineering Building - $5 million UGF, $5 million DGF

This amount only funds construction through April, 2015. UAF needed another $28.3 million to finish construction of the new building.      

  • UAA Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies Proposed Pilot Test and Formative Evaluation of Methods to Prevent FASD - $400,000 UGF
  • UAS Juneau Campus Mining Workforce Development - $120,000 UGF 
  • UAA Kachemak Bay Campus Pioneer Avenue Building Addition - $50,000 UGF
  • UAA Main Campus Deferred Maintenance - $12 million UGF
  • UAA Community Campus Deferred Maintenance - $2.5 million UGF
  • UAS Main Campus Deferred Maintenance - $4.27 million UGF
  • UAS Community Campus Deferred Maintenance - $500,000 UGF
  • UAF Heat and Power Plant Major Upgrade - $162 million UGF, $70 million DGF

Sen. Pete Kelly and Sen. Kevin Meyer put together a complex financing package that will fully fund the necessary upgrades to the UAF Combined Heat and Power Plant, which has reached the end of its 50-year designed lifespan. This was estimated to be a $245 million project, and Sens. Kelly and Meyer did an incredible job crafting the package and convincing their colleagues to accept it in this budget environment.

The capital budget and a companion bill, SB 218, contain the following for the UAF Heat and Power Plant project: an appropriation of $74.5 million GF; authorization for UA to borrow $87.5 million from the Municipal Bond Bank, with the loan being repaid by the state, not by the university; and authorization for UA to sell $70 million in revenue bonds, to be repaid by UA.

Depending on interest rates, repayment of the Municipal Bond Bank loan will cost up to $7 million per year, and the legislature’s agreement to pay for that is very generous. While UA will be responsible for the revenue bond repayment, a majority of the costs will be covered by the $4.5 million estimated annual energy savings expected for the new plant. The legislature also instructed UA to impose a utility surcharge or tuition increase generating no more than $2 million in annual revenue, to supplement the energy savings and help repay the revenue bonds. No decisions have been made as to how this will be done, and UA’s student governance groups will be consulted before the Board of Regents makes the ultimate decision. Our participatory process will allow time for input.

UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers, UAF Vice Chancellor Pat Pitney, and consultant Bob Shefchik spent a tremendous amount of time working with Sens. Kelly and Meyer to develop this financing package, and to convince other legislators of its critical need. Their time and effort were well spent.

You can find a chart with a side-by-side comparison of the Board of Regents’ request and the legislature’s final capital budget at this link:

http://www.alaska.edu/files/state/FY15-Capital-Budget.pdf


What Needs to Happen Now

The budget work is not yet over. We have two tasks left:

First, we need to thank UA’s legislative friends who are responsible for the positive things in our operating and capital budgets. A letter, an email, or even a phone call is a good way to let legislators know that their support is noted and appreciated. You can find contact information for legislators here: http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/commbr_info.asp?session=28 .

Rep. Cathy Munoz was the chair of UA’s operating budget subcommittee in the House, and she fought hard to limit the reductions to UA’s budget that were part of the House leadership’s overall budget reduction strategy. Sen. Anna Fairclough was the chair of UA’s operating budget subcommittee in the Senate, and she added the funding for the Mandatory Comprehensive Student Advising and for Systemwide Facilities Maintenance and Repair. The conference committee members, listed above, decided to compromise the House and Senate budgets at a level closer to the higher Senate number than the lower House number, and for that they all deserve our thanks.

Senate Finance Committee Co-Chair Kevin Meyer was responsible for the capital budget, and he made the decision to add full funding for the UAF Heat and Power Plant and for the UAA Engineering Building to the budget. Sen. Pete Kelly is the other Senate Finance Committee Co-Chair, and he was the driving force behind adding the UAF Heat and Power Plant. These two projects, particularly the UAF Heat and Power Plant, used a lot of the state’s available capital funds and represent dollars that other entities wanted for their own priorities. State agencies, municipalities, school districts, non-profits, businesses, and private citizens all compete for limited capital dollars, and saying yes to UA meant saying no to other advocates and their worthy projects. There are undoubtedly many people around the state who are disappointed with Sen. Meyer’s decisions, and Sen. Kelly expended a tremendous amount of his political capital to benefit UAF, which is not in his Senate district. The thanks we owe these two legislators cannot be overstated.

Rep. Bill Stoltze, the Co-Chair of the House Finance Committee responsible for the capital budget, made the decision to keep UA’s projects in the budget when he received it from the Senate. Rep. Steve Thompson, a member of the House Finance Committee, was the point person for funding the UAF Heat and Power Plant in the House’s version of the capital budget, and he fought to keep it fully funded in the House budget.

Second, none of the legislature’s hard work and support will matter if Governor Parnell vetoes individual operating items or capital projects. You can email Governor Parnell using this form: http://gov.alaska.gov/parnell/contact/email-the-governor.html . You can find his mailing address and office phone numbers here: http://gov.alaska.gov/parnell/contact/office-locations.html .


Legislation

Many pieces of legislation that affect the University of Alaska were introduced during the session. Any bill or resolution that did not pass prior to adjournment is now dead, and will have to be reintroduced by a member of the new legislature next session. If reintroduced, those bills and resolutions will have to start through the committee process from beginning. Bills that passed the legislature will now be sent to the governor to be signed into law or vetoed. Resolutions are not subject to veto.

These are the noteworthy bills and resolutions that were considered during the 2014 session:

HB 75 - CONTRIBUTIONS FROM PFD: UNIVERSITY/AUDITS by Rep. Paul Seaton
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=HB%20%2075&session=28
Status: passed the legislature

Among other things, this bill requires each campus of the university to pay a yearly administrative fee of $250 to the Department of Revenue in order to be included in the PFD’s Pick.Click.Give program. This is the same fee that non-profit entities must pay to be included in the program. The bill also authorizes the deduction of a 7% fee from all gifts made through Pick.Click.Give to cover marketing costs of the program.   The state collects the fee, but the intent is that it will go to the Alaska Community Foundation which houses the communication efforts in support of the program.

HB 93 – CHARTER SCHOOLS by Rep. Lynn Gattis
http://www.akleg.gov/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=HB%20%2093&session=28
Status: died in the House Finance Committee/incorporated into HB 278

In its original form, this bill would have made UA an authorizer of charter schools. Universities are authorizers in several other states. Supporters believed that the current authorizers, local school boards, were not approving charter schools as often as they should. As amended and then rolled into HB 278, UA would not be an authorizer; instead, applicants to operate a charter school would have enhanced rights to appeal a denial by a local school board to the Department of Education.

HB 150 – TECHNICAL/VOCATIONAL EDUCATION PROGRAM by Rep. Mark Neuman
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?session=28&bill=HB150
Status: died in the House Finance Committee/incorporated into HB 278

This bill proposed extending the Technical Vocational Education Program (TVEP) program passed its scheduled sunset date of June 30, 2014. It was rolled into HB 278. That bill extends TVEP to June 30, 2017 and changes the funding mechanism. Funds for TVEP are provided by the employee unemployment insurance tax. HB 278 eliminates the separate allocation of funds currently given to UAS, and places UAS in the UA System funding pool. This will result in a reduction of $204,000 per year (about 3.8 percent) of the TVEP funds available to UA programs.

HB 154 – NATURAL AND CULTURAL HISTORY REPOSITORIES by Rep. Steve Thompson
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=HB%20154&session=28
Status: passed the legislature

This bill gives the Department of Education the authority to designate museums other than the State Museum in Juneau as natural and cultural history repositories. The intention is that UAF’s Museum of the North will apply for this designation.

HB 255 – UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS by Rep. Shelley Hughes
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?session=28&bill=HB255
Status: passed the legislature

This bill authorizes UA to establish an unmanned aircraft systems operator training program. It also places restrictions on the use of unmanned aircraft systems by law enforcement agencies.

HB 278 – EDUCATION by Governor Parnell
http://www.akleg.gov/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=HB%20278&session=28
Status: passed the legislature

This is one of the bills that caused the session to be lengthened. It makes a substantial number of fiscal and policy changes to state law, and the House and Senate versions were so different that a conference committee was appointed to draft a compromise. Most of the bill’s provisions primarily impact K-12, but one deals directly with UA. Specifically, the bill extends the Technical Vocational Education Program (TVEP) to June 30, 2017 and changes the funding mechanism. Funds for TVEP are provided by the employee unemployment insurance tax. The bill eliminates the separate allocation of funds currently given to UAS, and places UAS in the UA System funding pool. This will result in a reduction of $204,900 per year (about 3.8 percent) of the TVEP funds available to UA programs.

HB 306 – EVALUATE INDIRECT EXPENDITURES; TAX CREDITS by Rep. Steve Thompson
http://www.akleg.gov/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=HB%20306&session=28
Status: passed the legislature

This bill requires the evaluation of the state’s extensive list of non-petroleum tax credits, and also sunsets those tax credits. The assumption is that if the evaluation of a particular tax credit demonstrates that it actually has value to the state that exceeds the taxes that are given up, the tax credit will be reenacted by the legislature. The bill provides that the education tax credit, which benefits UA, will be reviewed in 2015 and will sunset in 2018 unless the legislature reenacts it. This bill passed after the scheduled adjournment day, when the session continued for an additional five days.

HB 335 – REGULATION OF FIREARMS/KNIVES BY THE UNIVERSITY by Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux
http://www.akleg.gov/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=HB%20335&session=28
Status: died in the House Judiciary Committee

This bill would prohibit the Board of Regents from regulating the possession of firearms or knives on campus, other than in those buildings where visitors are screened at the entrance. It did not have a hearing. SB 176, the Senate version of this bill, is discussed below.

HCR 15 - TASK FORCE ON UNMANNED AIRCRAFT by Rep. Shelley Hughes
http://www.akleg.gov/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=HCR%2015&session=28  
Status: passed the legislature

HCR 15 extends the Task Force on Unmanned Aircraft Systems that was created by the legislature last year.   The Task Force is made up of legislators, government officials, and industry members. It will study unmanned aircraft systems and their impact on Alaska. The Task Force is authorized to request administrative and technical assistance from UAF, and it operates until June 30, 2017.

SB 74 – UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA BUILDING FUND by Sen. Pete Kelly
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=SB%20%2074&session=28
Status: passed the legislature

This bill was introduced by Sen. Pete Kelly at the request of UA. It proposes the creation of a University Building Fund (UBF), modeled after the Alaska Public Building Fund (APBF), which has been operated successfully by the Department of Administration since 2000. The APBF has accomplished its objective of making agencies cost-conscious about the space they occupy, and has functioned as a mechanism to preserve facility assets and extend their useful life.

SB 93 – TECHNICAL/VOCATIONAL EDUCATION PROGRAM by Sen. Donny Olson
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=SB%20%2093&session=28
Status: died in the Senate Finance Committee/incorporated into HB 278

This bill proposed extending the Technical Vocational Education Program (TVEP) program passed its scheduled sunset date of June 30, 2014. It was rolled into HB 278. That bill extends TVEP to June 30, 2017 and changes the funding mechanism. Funds for TVEP are provided by the employee unemployment insurance tax. HB 278 eliminates the separate allocation of funds currently given to UAS, and places UAS in the UA System funding pool. This will result in a reduction of $204,000 per year (about 3.8 percent) of the TVEP funds available to UA programs.

SB 176 - REGULATION OF FIREARMS/KNIVES BY THE UNIVERSITY by Sen. John Coghill
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=SB%20176&session=28
Status: died in the Senate Finance Committee

In its original form, this bill would have prohibited the Board of Regents from regulating the possession of firearms or knives on campus, other than in those buildings where visitors are screened at the entrance. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a number of hearings and amended the bill to prohibit the Board of Regents from regulating the possession of firearms by holders of concealed carry permits. The Board only would be able to regulate the possession of firearms by persons without a permit. While the bill was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with “do pass” recommendations by Chairman John Coghill and Sens. Lesil McGuire, Fred Dyson, and Bill Wielechowski, it did not get a hearing in its next committee of referral, the Senate Finance Committee. The press reported that Sen. Coghill requested the Finance Committee to not hear his bill, because it still had unresolved issues.

SB 218 – MUNICIPAL BOND BANK; UAF HEAT AND POWER PLANT by the Senate Finance Committee
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=SB%20218&session=28
Status: passed the legislature

This bill was part of the financing package for the UAF Combined Heat and Power Plant Major Upgrade. It authorizes UA to borrow $87.5 million from the Municipal Bond Bank, and it also authorizes UA to issue $70 million in revenue bonds. The legislature adopted a fiscal note for the bill which will appropriate $7 million each year to pay off the loan from the Municipal Bond Bank, so that UA does not have to pay off the loan from its own resources.

SJR 23 – CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT: STUDENT LOAN DEBT by Sen. Anna Fairclough
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=SJR%2023&session=28
Status: died on the House calendar on the final day when not taken up

This resolution would have put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. If the voters approved the amendment, it would have allowed the Alaska Student Loan Corporation to issue general obligation bonds, which would have resulted in lower interest rates for student loans.

A Final Note

Many thanks to all who actively participated in advocating for the University of Alaska. Whether you provided public testimony on budget initiatives or bills, wrote letters, sent emails, or met with legislators and staff, the collective actions of all encouraged legislators take actions that benefited the university.

For more information, contact Associate Vice President Chris Christensen at
cschristenseniii@alaska.edu or visit www.alaska.edu/state/

April 14, 2014

The Capitol Report
By Chris Christensen, Associate Vice President, State Relations

Today is the 84th day of the legislative session, less than one week until adjournment. The Conference Committee on the operating budget has started reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions. The Senate passed a capital budget on Saturday.

**The House Finance Committee will start working on the capital budget tonight, April 14, and will take several hours of public testimony beginning at 5:30 p.m. People who want to testify must sign up by 8 p.m., about a half-hour before public testimony ends. This will be the last opportunity for UA advocates to testify on a budget bill this session.**

Operating Budget

The Conference Committee started working last Thursday to put together a final operating budget. The differences between the university’s House and Senate operating budgets were detailed in the March 31 Capitol Report.  

The Conference Committee is made up of three House members (House Finance Co-Chair Alan Austerman, House Finance Co-Chair Bill Stoltze, and House Finance minority member Les Gara) and three Senate members (Senate Finance Co-Chair Pete Kelly, Senate Finance Co-Chair Kevin Meyer, and Senate Finance minority member Lyman Hoffman).  

Traditionally, the Conference Committee meets for a half-hour or so each afternoon during the session’s final week, and the members put the legislature’s final operating budget together by choosing between the different levels of funding proposed by the House and Senate. When the committee finishes its work, the budget will be sent to the full House and Senate for approval, and then sent to the governor who can approve or veto individual appropriations. 

Senate Capital Budget

The Senate capital budget (SB 119) contains the following items for the university:

  • UAA Engineering $45.6 million General Funds (GF) (this is all the money needed to complete the UAA engineering building project)
  • UAF Engineering $10 million ($5 million GF, $5 million receipt authority to raise money; this is substantially less than the $33.3 million GF that is needed to complete the project)       
  •  UAA Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies-Proposed Pilot Test and Formative Evaluation of Methods to Prevent FASD $400,000 GF      
  • UAS Juneau Campus Mining Workforce Development $120,000 GF
  • UAA Main Campus Deferred Maintenance $12 million GF
  • UAA Community Campus Deferred Maintenance $2.5 million GF
  • UAS Main Campus Deferred Maintenance $4.27 million GF
  • UAS Community Campus Deferred Maintenance $500,000 GF

The budget bill also includes a financing package to replace the UAF heat and power plant, as follows:

  • $50 million GF withdrawn from the Sustainable Energy Transmission and Supply Development Fund (SETS)
  • $37.5 million GF withdrawn from the Alaska Capital Income Fund
  • Authority for UA to issue $70 million in revenue bonds, to be repaid by UA
  •  Authority for UA to borrow $87.5 million from the Municipal Bond Bank, to be repaid by an annual appropriation made by the legislature to UA

The package has a value of $245 million, the full amount needed to replace the aging heat and power plant.

It is estimated that it will cost $5.6 million per year for 20 years for UA to pay off the $70 million in revenue bonds that represent its share of the project’s cost. Of this, $4.5 million will come from fuel cost savings, since the new plant will be much more energy efficient than the old plant. There is intent language in the capital budget that instructs UA to impose a utility surcharge or tuition increase to raise the balance. No decisions have yet been made on the exact manner of raising the funds to cover the balance, and decisions will not be made until our students have been consulted.

The Senate also passed SB 218 along with the capital budget. This bill was needed to provide UA with the legal authority to issue the revenue bonds and borrow money from the Municipal Bond Bank, since that authority cannot be granted solely by a budget bill. The Senate approved a fiscal note for SB 218 that appropriates $7 million GF per year to repay the loan from the Municipal Bond Bank, so that UA does not have to bear the burden of repayment. You can find more information about SB 218 at this link: http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=SB%20218&session=28

Unfortunately, in order to provide the financing package at a time when the state is running a budget deficit in excess of $2 billion, some things had to be given up. All of the deferred maintenance funding for UAF (main and Kuskokwim campus in Bethel) and for Statewide that was in the governor’s original capital budget was removed from the Senate capital budget and applied to the heat and power plant. Funds that might otherwise have been appropriated to complete the UAF engineering building were also applied to the plant, and UA must raise $2 million through a utility surcharge or tuition increase. Without these compromises, the heat and power plant would not have been approved by the Senate. 

We owe a great deal of thanks to Sens. Kelly and Meyer, who worked tirelessly on this project, putting together a complex financing package that includes cash, bonds, a loan, and support from students. When session started, many people thought that it would be impossible to get approval for a project this size in the current budget environment, but Sens. Kelly and Meyer got their Senate colleagues to support it. Now, the House has to be convinced to keep the heat and power plant in the budget.

You can find a copy of the Board of Regents’ capital request at http://www.alaska.edu/files/state/Redbook-Final.pdf and see which projects made the Senate’s budget and which ones did not. The project list is on page 14.

House Capital Budget

The House Finance Committee will begin its work on the capital budget tonight, April 14, starting at 5:30, when it takes public testimony. Testimony will be taken in Juneau and by teleconference at local Legislative Information Offices (LIO). You can find the location of your LIO here: http://w3.legis.state.ak.us/misc/lios.php.

**You need to get to your LIO and sign in no later than 8 p.m. April 14 in order to testify, and testimony is limited to three minutes per person.***

House Finance Committee members also will accept written testimony sent by email or fax. It is a good idea to copy your own legislators so they know what you are supporting.

Why is this hearing important? 

Legislators WANT to hear from their constituents. They will listen intently and take notes on what is said and what budget items have the most support. The more university advocates who testify on the capital budget, the better. 

What should you say? You can speak about projects that are in the Senate budget, or projects that didn’t make the cut. You will have three minutes to make your case.

  • Identify yourself by giving your name and affiliation and your House District, if you know it.
  • State why you are testifying.
  • Pick two or three bullet points about the importance of the project.
  • Then tell your own story!

If you can’t testify, please send an email to the members of the House Finance Committee, letting them know what you would have said if you had been there. Be sure to thank them. The members are:

House Finance Committee members are:

Representative Alan Austerman, Co-Chair, (R) Kodiak

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=AUS&house=H&session=28

Representative Bill Stoltze, Co-Chair, (R) Chugiak

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=STZ&house=H&session=28

Representative Mark Neuman, Vice-Chair, (R) Big Lake

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=NEU&house=H&session=28

Representative Mia Costello, (R) Anchorage

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=COS&house=H&session=28

Representative Lindsey Holmes, (R) Anchorage

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=HOL&house=H&session=28

Representative Cathy Munoz, (R) Juneau

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=MUN&house=H&session=28

Representative Steve Thompson, (R) Fairbanks

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=THP&house=H&session=28

Representative Tammie Wilson, (R) North Pole

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=WLT&house=H&session=28

Representative Bryce Edgmon, (D) Dillingham

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=EDG&house=H&session=28

Representative Les Gara, (D) Anchorage (minority member)

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=GAR&house=H&session=28

Representative David Guttenberg, (D) Fairbanks (minority member)

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=GTT&house=H&session=28

 

Thank you for your support!

March 31, 2014

The Capitol Report
By Chris Christensen
Associate Vice President for State Relations

Today is the 70th day of the legislative session, and we have less than three weeks to go until adjournment on Sunday, April 20. The Senate Finance Committee completed its work on the operating budget last Friday, and the full Senate will finalize passage of that budget later this week. Once the budget has passed the Senate, that body will begin working with the House to reconcile the differences between their respective versions. Before that process starts, the Senate Finance Committee will take up the capital budget, beginning with public testimony later this week on Thursday and Saturday.

Senate Operating Budget

The budget that was sent to the Senate floor by the Senate Finance Committee is very similar to the budget that was adopted by the House on March 13. Both budgets make an unallocated reduction of $15.9 million from UA’s current FY14 budget. “Unallocated” means that the university gets to decide how to absorb the reduction; the legislature didn’t specify any existing functions or programs to eliminate. Both budgets added approximately $7 million for new expenses like pay increases and operating costs of four new buildings that will open this year. Unfortunately, this is less than half of the new expenses that UA will actually incur this year.

The Senate’s version of the operating budget also would provide the university with several additions, compared to the House budget. These additions include  $400,000 in one-time money (i.e., money that we get for only one year, and which does not become part of our base budget going forward into future years) to fund the final piece of the Mandatory Comprehensive Student Advising initiative; $1.1 million in one-time money for facilities maintenance and repair; $500,000 to fund a fossil fuel integration program, allowing the university to assist the state and industry in developing fossil fuels; $12.5 million in contingency money, to pay for emergency diesel fuel in case of a failure of the aging coal boilers at UAF; and the money needed to fund union contracts that were approved since session began in January. The Senate Finance Committee budget also makes one reduction that is not in the House budget: it cuts $1.1 million from the university’s travel budget, or roughly 12.5%. The committee made a similar 12.5% travel reduction to all state agencies.

Senate Capital Budget

The capital budget for the university that Governor Parnell sent to the legislature included $37.5 million for deferred maintenance. The governor’s budget also included $10 million of the $78.9 million that UA needs to complete the UAA and UAF engineering buildings. For those items we are grateful.

Unfortunately, the governor’s budget did not include state funds for any of the other projects that were requested by the Board of Regents. There was no money to begin work on a replacement for the UAF power plant, and no money for research. You can find a side-by-side comparison of the Board of Regents’ capital budget and the governor’s capital budget at http://www.alaska.edu/files/state/Redbook-Final.pdf on page 14. Descriptions of projects begin on page 16. 

The Senate Finance Committee will take public testimony on the governor’s capital budget on Thursday, April 3 and Saturday, April 5. This may be the only opportunity for public advocacy on the capital budget, and it is critical that senators hear about the university’s projects. Note that testimony will be taken only from local Legislative Information Offices (see list at http://w3.legis.state.ak.us/misc/lios.php ) at designated times; the ‘Offnet’ option is available only to participants without a Legislative Information Office in their communities. Testimony is limited to two minutes per person.

Thursday, April 3

1:30 p.m.  Bethel, Nome, Kotzebue, Unalaska

2 p.m.        Barrow, Tok, Delta Junction

2:30 p.m.  Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg

3 p.m.         Sitka, Cordova, Valdez

3:30 p.m.  Juneau

4 p.m.         Kenai, Kodiak, Dillingham

Saturday, April 5

12 p.m.       Fairbanks, Mat-Su

12:30 p.m.  Anchorage

  1 p.m.         Glenallen, Seward, Homer

  1:30 p.m.  Statewide Teleconference Offnet Sites

This year, the state will run a budget deficit that is estimated to be $2.3 billion. The budgets that are currently being put together for FY15 will require the state to dip into savings, because even with the cuts, expenses will be much greater than revenues. Because of this, the governor submitted a relatively small capital budget, and he left very little room for the legislature to add more projects. The capital budget that finally passes could be the smallest in many years. The university’s share of that budget is currently very small, and we are in competition with many other worthy projects for whatever funds are added. This is your chance to convince the committee that additional initiatives from the Board of Regents’ budget deserve to be added to the final budget document.

What should you say? You will have two minutes to make your case.

* Identify yourself by giving your name and affiliation and your Senate District, if you know it.

* State why you are testifying.

* Pick two or three bullet points about the importance of the project.

* Then tell your own story!
 

If you can’t testify, please send an email to the members of the Senate Finance Committee, letting them know what you would have said if you had been there. Be sure to thank them. The members are:

Senator Pete Kelly, Co-Chair (R-Fairbanks)

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=KEP&house=S&session=28

Senator Kevin Meyer, Co-Chair (R-Anchorage)

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=MEY&house=S&session=28 

Senator Anna Fairclough, Vice-Chair (R-Eagle River)

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=FAI&house=S&session=28

Senator Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla)

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=DNL&house=S&session=28

Senator Click Bishop (R-Fairbanks)

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=BIS&house=S&session=28

Senator Donny Olson (D-Golovin)

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=OLS&house=S&session=28

Senator Lyman Hoffman (D-Bethel)

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=HOF&house=S&session=28

During the week, the Senate Finance Committee will release an amended capital budget bill. With your help, there may be some additions for the university.


UPDATE: SB 176/HB 335 “Weapons on Campus”

SB 176 was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday, March 21. In its current form, the bill allows any person with a concealed weapons permit issued by any state to possess a handgun anywhere on campus, including dormitories. The only exceptions are the places where state law always prohibits guns, such as the child care facilities on campus. The bill is now in the Senate Finance Committee, and has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.  The House version of this legislation, HB 335, is still in the House Judiciary Committee and has not yet had a hearing. The House version is not limited to permit holders; any person not prohibited by law from possessing a firearm would be authorized to carry a gun openly or concealed on campus. 

UA opposes these bills, and urges others to as well. Please contact Senate Finance members listed above, as well as your own legislator and Senate President Charlie Huggins (Senator.Charlie.Huggins@akleg.gov).

Legislators need to hear from a critical mass of voters opposed to this legislation. Statistics show that our campuses are safer than off campus elsewhere in Alaska, and UA’s position is that the current policy is not onlyconstitutional, it works well. For the university’s position paper and more background, go to www.alaska.edu/state and click on “advocacy” in the left-hand menu bar. It’s best to use your own email and write letters and emails on your own time. If you’ve already written, thank you for your help. Your voice makes a difference. Please share this information with others outside the university who may be able to help us.

Also, please share this issue of the Capitol Report and encourage others who want to keep up with university news in Juneau to subscribe. The link below will take them to a subscription site.

Thank you.

March 14, 2014

The Capitol Report
By Chris Christensen
Associate Vice President for State Relations

Today is the 53rd day of the legislative session, and a great deal has happened in Juneau during the past week. On March 11, the Senate’s University Budget Subcommittee sent its recommendations on UA’s operating budget to the full Senate Finance Committee. Two days later, on March 13, the House passed its version of the operating budget and sent it to the Senate for consideration.

House Budget

As previously reported, the governor submitted a UA budget to the legislature in December that proposed a $14.9 million unallocated reduction from the current year’s funding level, but he also proposed adding $5.3 million to partially cover new expenses, such as the scheduled employee pay raises and operating costs for new buildings that are due to open this year. See http://www.alaska.edu/files/state/FY15-Budget-Data-Summary-Final.pdf

After session began, the governor submitted amendments to his budget that proposed funding the UNAC and UNAD contacts for an additional $1.8 million. Thus, his final budget proposed adding $7.1 million to partially cover new expenses, for a net cut of $7.8 million below the FY14 funding level.

The operating budget that the House has passed and sent to the Senate for consideration reduces the governor’s budget by an additional $1 million, for a total unallocated reduction from the current year of $15.9 million. The House also adopted most of the governor’s amended budget proposal, and added $6.9 million in new money to cover a portion of UA’s increased expenses for FY15. This gives UA a net cut of $8 million below the FY14 funding level.

For all of state government, the operating budget passed by the House reflects a $50 million decrease from FY14 and a $28 million decrease from the budget proposed for FY15 by the governor. Last April, it was estimated that the state would run a $1 billion deficit during the current fiscal year. In December, that estimate was increased to $2 billion. In the last few weeks, the deficit estimate was increased to $2.3 billion. It is these huge deficits, and the knowledge that they will continue for the foreseeable future, that is driving the legislature’s budget cutting.

Senate Subcommittee Budget

As is normal, the Senate starts working on the operating budget after the House does, and it finishes its work a few weeks later. The Senate’s University Budget Subcommittee finalized its work last Tuesday, and sent a recommendation to the full Senate Finance Committee for its consideration.

Like the House, the subcommittee decided to increase the $14.9 million unallocated reduction proposed by the governor to $15.9 million. Also like the House, the subcommittee decided to provide $6.9 million in new money to partially cover new expenses, such as the scheduled employee pay raises and operating costs for new buildings that are due to open this year. The subcommittee’s recommendation included funding for the UNAC contract but did not include funding for the UNAD contract. Funding for UNAD is expected to be added by the full Senate Finance Committee.

The subcommittee made some additional changes to the governor’s proposals that are unlike the House’s version of the operating budget. First, it reduced UA’s travel budget by approximately $1.1 million in unrestricted general funds (UGF), or roughly 15 percent of the total UGF travel budget. Second, it recommended additional funding of $400,000 UGF to complete the comprehensive student advising program. Unfortunately, this is being provided as one-time money. This means that the money will be available to fund the program only in FY15, and not in subsequent years. In future years, UA will have to stop funding the program, or find another source of funds. Third, the subcommittee recommended additional funding of approximately $1.1 million UGF for facilities maintenance and repair. Unfortunately, this welcome addition is also being provided as one-time money.

The full Senate Finance Committee will review this subcommittee recommendation, and can decrease it, increase it, or leave it unchanged. Before it makes any decisions, it will take public testimony next week.

Public Testimony

On Thursday, March 20 and Friday, March 21, the Senate Finance Committee will take public testimony from around the state on the FY 15 operating budget. This is the last opportunity to participate in public testimony on the operating budget. Funding in the Board of   Regents’ operating budget request includes salaries, fixed costs, and   priority program investments such as “Student Achievement and   Attainment,” “Productive Partnerships with Alaska’s Public and Private Industries” in health, workforce development, mining, and fisheries,   and “R&D to Enhance Alaska’s Communities and Economic Growth.” You can find a copy of UA’s FY15 budget request here: http://www.alaska.edu/files/state/Redbook-Final.pdf

Note that testimony will be taken only from local Legislative Information Offices (see list here - http://w3.legis.state.ak.us/misc/lios.php ) at designated times; the ‘Offnet’ option is available only to participants without a Legislative Information Office in their communities. That number is 855-463-5009. Testimony is limited to three minutes per person.

Thursday, March 20

9:00 am       Bethel, Nome, Kotzebue

9:30 am       Barrow, Tok, Delta Junction

10:00am     Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg

10:30 am - 11:00am     Sitka, Cordova, Valdez

BREAK

1:30 pm     Fairbanks, Mat-Su

2:30 pm     Anchorage, Unalaska

4:00 pm     Glennallen, Seward, Homer

Friday, March 21

1:30 pm     Juneau

2:00 pm     Kenai, Kodiak, Dillingham

2:30 pm     Statewide Teleconference - Offnet Sites (855-463-5009)

The Senate Finance Committee will have the subcommittee budget in front of it as the working document. It will take testimony on items that are in the subcommittee’s recommendation, as well as on items that are not in the subcommittee’s recommendation. This is your chance to convince the committee that additional initiatives from the Board of Regents’ budget should be added to the final budget document.

What should you say? You will have three minutes to make your case.

Identify yourself by giving your name and affiliation and your Senate District, if you know it. State why you are testifying. Pick two or three bullet points about the importance of the initiative. Then tell your own story!

If you can’t testify, send an email to the members of the Senate Finance Committee, letting them know what you would have said if you had been there. Be sure to thank them. The members are:

Senator Pete Kelly, Co-chair (R-Fairbanks)
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=KEP&house=S&session=28

Senator Kevin Meyer, Co-chair (R-Anchorage)
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=MEY&house=S&session=28

Senator Anna Fairclough, Vice-chair (R-Eagle River)
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=FAI&house=S&session=28

Senator Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla)
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=DNL&house=S&session=28

Senator Click Bishop (R-Fairbanks)
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=BIS&house=S&session=28

Senator Donny Olson (D-Golovin)
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=OLS&house=S&session=28

Senator Lyman Hoffman (D-Bethel)
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=HOF&house=S&session=28

The committee intends to amend the operating budget during the week of March 24, and it will then send the budget to the Senate floor for a vote. Once the bill has passed the Senate, a conference committee made up of three members of the Senate and three members of the House will be appointed. The conference committee will have the job of reconciling the different versions of the budget passed by the House and Senate. The university could end up with the House budget, the Senate budget, or somewhere in between.
 

SB176-Guns on Campus legislation

The Senate Judiciary Committee will have two hearings next week on SB 176, relating to firearms on campus. The first will be on Monday, March 17 at 1:30pm, and the second will be on Wednesday, March 19 at 1:30 p.m. UA is opposed to the original version of this bill, which proposed to take away most of the Board of Regents’ authority to regulate the possession of firearms on UA property. The committee will discuss a substitute for the original bill that would allow persons with concealed weapons permits to possess handguns on campus, including in student dorms. Concerns remain about the substitute, which limits carry to concealed handguns with a permit but would still create inconsistencies with other state laws regulating firearms, and to limitations on the Board of Regents’ authority to regulate firearms on campus President Gamble will be in Juneau to testify on Wednesday. You can find out more about the bill at:
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=SB%20176&session=28

You can find UA’s position paper and legal analysis SB 176 on the State Relations website at: www.alaska.edu/state and click on “advocacy” kit.


HB 306 – Relating to tax credits

The House Finance Committee will continue to review HB 306, a proposed bill that would repeal certain tax credits in order to force regular legislative review and action. Included is the Alaska Education Tax Credit that is incentivizing increased giving from companies in certain industries such as mining, tourism, fisheries, banking, insurance and others. The concern is that donor companies count on certainty when planning their future giving or multiple-year pledges. The committee’s next meeting on this legislation will be on Tuesday, March 18 at 8:30 a.m.

You can find out more about the bill at: http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=HB%20306&session=28

Watch Gavel to Gavel (www.360north.org ) to view these and other hearings.

For more information, contact Chris Christensen at
cschristenseniii@alaska.edu

March 7, 2014

The Capitol Report
By Chris Christensen
Associate Vice President for State Relations 

Yesterday was the 45th legislative day, the midpoint of the session. We will send out a budget update early next week, after the Senate's University Budget Subcommittee finishes its work on our operating budget on Tuesday morning, and the House Finance Committee finalizes its version of our operating budget on Tuesday afternoon.

For now, we wanted to provide more information on the status of SB 176.

SB 176, sponsored by Sen. John Coghill, takes away most of the Board of Regents' authority to regulate the possession of firearms on campus. The bill authorizes both open carry and concealed carry of firearms any place on campus, with a few exceptions. The primary exception is that the Board of Regents may prohibit possession in "restricted access areas," which the bill defines as areas beyond a secure point where visitors are screened.
 

The bill has been referred only to the Senate Judiciary Committee; there was no referral for review by the Senate Education Committee. Thus, opportunities to testify by teleconference or to submit written testimony may be limited to this committee.

The bill has had two hearings. President Gamble testified at the first hearing, and advised the committee that UA is opposed to passage of the legislation as written. You can find the university's position paper online at http://www.alaska.edu/files/state/UA-Position-SB176-HB335-3-4-14-FINAL-.pdf

All other testimony was provided by supporters of the legislation.

There will be a third hearing in Senate Judiciary on Monday from 1:30 p.m.- 3 p.m. The committee will take testimony by teleconference from those not in Juneau. If you have an opinion and want to testify, go to your nearest Legislative Information Office (LIO). If you can't get to one, call 1-888-295-4546 and join the teleconference. Alternatively, call your local LIO and join the live teleconference.
http://w3.legis.state.ak.us/misc/lios.php.

Written testimony can be submitted via email, at an LIO, or by using the Public Opinion Message
system. http://w3.legis.state.ak.us/docs/pdf/pomform.pdf

You can find the membership of the Senate Judiciary Committee at this link:
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_com_info.asp?comm=SJUD&session=28

Clicking on the members' names will bring up more information and a link to their email addresses.

You can find more information about SB 176 at
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=SB%20176&session=28

A bill identical to SB 176 has been introduced in the House. HB 335 is sponsored by Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, and cosponsored by Reps. Bob Lynn, Charisse Millet and Neal Foster. It has been referred only to the House Judiciary Committee, and has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

You can find the membership of the House Judiciary Committee at this link:
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_com_info.asp?comm=HJUD&session=28

Clicking on the members' names will bring up more information and a link to their email addresses.

You can find more information about HB 335 at
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=HB%20335&session=28


Watch Gavel to Gavel (www.360north.org ) to view these and other hearings.

For more information, contact Chris Christensen at
cschristenseniii@alaska.edu or visit www.alaska.edu/state.

February 28, 2014

The Capitol Report
By Chris Christensen
Associate Vice President for State Relations  

Today is the 39th day of the legislative session, and the House’s University Budget Subcommittee finished its work earlier this week. 

As most of you know, there has been a dramatic reduction in oil revenues received by the state.   Between FY13 and FY15, the state’s unrestricted general fund revenues are projected to decline from $6.9 billion to $4.5 billion, a 35 percent reduction. This decline means that during the current fiscal year, FY14, the state will run an estimated $2 billion deficit. 

Governor Parnell’s budget proposed that the state spend 18.4 percent less in general fund dollars than it is spending during the current year. For the university operating budget, the governor proposed a $14.9 million unallocated reduction from the current year’s funding level, but he also proposed adding $5.3 million to partially cover new expenses, such as the scheduled employee pay raises and operating costs for new buildings that are due to open this year. UA’s net cut in the governor’s operating budget was $9.6 million below the FY14 level. www.alaska.edu/files/state/FY15-Budget-Data-Summary-Final.pdf

The House leadership has made it clear this session that the governor’s budget would be further reduced before it was passed and sent to the Senate. It was therefore no surprise that the House’s University Budget Subcommittee took the governor’s proposed budget and reduced it an additional $1 million, for a total unallocated reduction from the current year of $15.9 million. The subcommittee also adopted the governor’s proposal for adding $5.3 million in new money to cover a portion of our increased expenses

The budget will now be sent to the full House Finance Committee for further action. The committee could adopt the subcommittee’s proposal, add to it, or reduce it further.

What This Budget Does:

The university will have approximately $12.5 million in fixed cost increases in FY14 that are not funded by this proposal. These include UA’s share of the salary increases (one-half of those increases, or approximately $5.1 million), and UA’s share of other fixed cost increases such as utility cost increases, facility maintenance and repair, and new facility operating costs ($7.4 million). The university will need to cover these costs by increasing revenues or reallocating resources. The $15.9 million unallocated reduction mentioned above will also have to be covered by increasing revenues or reallocating resources. That is a total of $28.4 million that must be covered next year by increasing revenues or reallocating existing resources.

In addition, this proposed budget does not fund virtually any of the new high demand programs that were proposed in the Board of Regents’ budget, such as Mandatory Comprehensive Student Advising, UAF’s veterinary program, or AHEC funding. The only one funded is the salary for the Director of the UAS Center for Mine Training. You can find a complete list of the programs not in the budget here on page 6: http://www.alaska.edu/files/state/Redbook-Final.pdf  

While this budget proposal is disappointing, it is not surprising in light of the state’s revenue picture, and the concerns about budget sustainability that have been expressed repeatedly by members of the House majority. It should be noted that there were proposals behind the scenes to reduce UA’s budget substantially more, and the subcommittee did not adopt those.


What’s Next?
The House Finance Committee is going to take statewide public testimony on the operating budget at local Legislative Information Offices on Tuesday, March 4 and Wednesday, March 5. This is the annual opportunity for advocates to have their voices heard.

You will be asked to identify yourself, including your name, affiliation, and legislative district. The latter gets your legislator’s attention if he or she is at the table. You will have only two minutes to convey your message.

Legislators are not so much interested in the financial details of the budget request as they are to hear your story. Tell them what program initiatives or other issues you are supporting and why, and how they will benefit the state. Talk about personal experiences that demonstrate the value of a program. At the end of your testimony, be sure to thank the legislators for their time and ask for their support of your request.

The budget is not yet finalized in the House Finance Committee, and there still could be additions. However, keep in mind that it is also possible that there could be further cuts.

Here is the schedule:

Tuesday, March 4
1:30 - 2:45 p.m. Juneau
3:00 - 4:00 p.m. Bethel, Cordova, Kotzebue, Nome, Valdez, Wrangell, and Offnet sites
4:15 - 5:45 p.m. Anchorage

Wednesday, March 5
1:30 - 2:30 p.m. Barrow, Dillingham, Fairbanks
3:00 - 4:15 p.m. Sitka, Petersburg, Delta Junction, Unalaska, Glennallen, Tok
4:30 - 5:45 p.m. Homer, Kenai, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Mat-Su, Seward

-Public testimony limited to 2 minutes each.
-Please arrive 15 minutes prior to the end of the allotted time or
testimony will close early.

-If you are calling as an Offnet caller, only call during the designated Offnet time slot.

House Finance Committee members and alternate members are:

Representative Alan Austerman, Co-Chair, (R) Kodiak
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=AUS&house=H&session=28 )

Representative Bill Stoltze, Co-Chair, (R) Chugiak
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=STZ&house=H&session=28 )

Representative Mark Neuman, Vice-Chair, (R) Big Lake
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=NEU&house=H&session=28 )

Representative Mia Costello, (R) Anchorage
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=COS&house=H&session=28 )

Representative Lindsey Holmes, (R) Anchorage
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=HOL&house=H&session=28 )

Representative Cathy Munoz, (R) Juneau
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=MUN&house=H&session=28 )

Representative Steve Thompson, (R) Fairbanks
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=THP&house=H&session=28 )

Representative Tammie Wilson, (R) North Pole
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=WLT&house=H&session=28 )

Representative Bryce Edgmon, (D) Dillingham
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=EDG&house=H&session=28 )

Representative Les Gara, (D) Anchorage (minority member)
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=GAR&house=H&session=28 )

Representative David Guttenberg, (D) Fairbanks (minority member)
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=GTT&house=H&session=28 )

Representative Mike Hawker, (R) Anchorage (alternate member)
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=HAW&house=H&session=28 )

Representative Scott Kawasaki, (D) Fairbanks (minority alternate member)
( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_mbr_info.asp?member=KAW&house=H&session=28 )

Once it is finished with public testimony, the House Finance Committee will take the comments it received under consideration and close out the state operating budget during the week of March 10.   Shortly thereafter, the operating budget will be sent to the full House for a vote.

After the budget passes the House, we will do this all over again in the Senate, and then the House and Senate versions of the budget will be reconciled in a conference committee. The Senate will actually begin its subcommittee work on UA’s operating budget on Tuesday, March 4 at 7:30 a.m., before it receives the final version of the House budget.

Other News:

SB 176, which takes away most of the Board of Regents' authority to regulate the possession of firearms on campus, has been scheduled for two hearings next week. The bill authorizes both open carry and concealed carry of firearms any place on campus, with a few exceptions. The primary exception is that the Board of Regents may prohibit possession in "restricted access areas," which the bill defines as areas beyond a secure point where visitors are screened. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear the bill on Monday, March 3 from 1:30 - 3:00 p.m., and it will hear the bill again on Wednesday, March 5 from 1:30 - 3:00 p.m. 

You can find more information about SB 176 at
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=SB%20176&session=28

An identical House Bill was introduced last Friday. HB 335, sponsored by Representative Gabrielle LeDoux, has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. It has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. You can follow this bill at http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=HB%20335&session=28


Thank you for all your work to promote and support the University of Alaska!

For more information, contact Associate Vice President Chris
Christensen at cschristenseniii@alaska.edu or visit
www.alaska.edu/state .

February 24, 2014

Today is the 35th day of the legislative session, and the House’s University Budget Subcommittee is almost done with its work. Last Tuesday, the subcommittee held its third hearing and took testimony on a number of topics. Chancellor Brian Rogers was invited to speak about the need to upgrade UAF’s combined heat and power plant, and the subcommittee spent the largest block of time on that issue. The Board of Regents requested $245 million for this project ($195 million in general funds, and authorization for $50 million in UA revenue bonds). Unfortunately, the governor did not include any funds for the upgrade in his capital budget, and it is a difficult year for the legislature to add that much additional money for one project to the budget. Many of the questions posed by legislators involved finding other ways to finance the project.

In addition to Chancellor Rogers, the subcommittee heard Dr. Helena Wisniewski, UAA Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies, and Dr. Dan White, UAF Associate Vice Chancellor for Research, talk about the efforts of UAA and UAF to incentivize and commercialize research and innovation on campus. Subcommittee members were surprised and pleased to learn that UAA and UAF are making a concerted effort to take research with economic potential and find ways to market it and generate income for the researchers and for the university.

Finally, the subcommittee heard from Ro Bailey, the Deputy Director of the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration, on UA’s work with unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The legislature provided a $5 million capital appropriation to the center two years ago, and this investment paid off when the FAA chose UA to operate one of six UAS research and test sites across the country. The economic potential is considerable.

At 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25, the subcommittee will have its final hearing and make a budget recommendation to the House Finance Committee. As you have probably heard, the governor submitted a UA budget that has a substantial reduction from the current year, and we anticipate that this austere budget will be further reduced in the House.

The House Finance Committee has released its schedule for completing work on the operating budget. The key dates are as follows:

Budget subcommittees must finish their work by Friday, Feb. 28 (as notedabove, UA’s subcommittee is scheduled to finish its work on Feb. 25)

Statewide public testimony will be taken on the budget on March 4 and 5. 

The committee will meet to finalize the budget on March 11, and it will go to the House floor for passage the following week.

Critical dates for UA advocacy are March 4 and 5, when the House Finance Committee takes public testimony in Juneau and by statewide teleconference.

How does this teleconference work?

Notice will be posted on the legislature’s committee hearing calendar as to the times that the House Finance Committee will be taking public testimony. Typically, time is allotted for Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, rural, and offnet sites throughout the day. The public is invited to attend these meetings at their local legislative information office (http://w3.legis.state.ak.us/misc/lios.php) where they can sign up to present their testimony.

Once the committee receives the roster of speakers, they will call upon each person to come to the table to give a two-minute presentation. They are serious about this time constraint.

Note: We will send out a notice to all list serve members as soon as the times are posted. We will also post it on the UA State Relations webpage (http://www.alaska.edu/state). 

What if you can’t make it to the hearing?

House Finance Committee members will also accept written testimony sent by mail, email or fax. It’s also a great idea to copy your own legislators so they know what you are supporting.

Why is this hearing important?

Legislators WANT to hear from their constituents. They will be listening intently and taking notes on what is said and what budget items have the most support. The more university advocates who show up to testify on the budget, the better.  

We will have more information on this in the near future.

New Legislation:

A piece of legislation of great interest to the UA community was introduced last week. SB 176, sponsored by Senator John Coghill, takes away most of the Board of Regents’ authority to regulate the possession of firearms on campus. The bill authorizes both open carry and concealed carry of firearms any place on campus, with a few exceptions. The primary exception is that the Board of Regents may prohibit possession in “restricted access areas,” which the bill defines as areas beyond a secure point where visitors are screened. The bill has been referred only to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and has tentatively been scheduled for its first hearing on Monday, March 3 from 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.  President Gamble will testify. The members of the Judiciary Committee are:

Senator John Coghill, Chair

Senator Lesil McGuire, Vice Chair

Senator Fred Dyson

Senator Donald Olson

Senator Bill Wielechowski

You can find more information about SB 176 at http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=SB%20176&session=28 


Also introduced last week was HB 306 by Representative Steve Thompson. Among other things, this bill will repeal the Education Tax Credit by June 30, 2016, along with all other indirect tax credits provided by the state. These tax credits cost the state lost revenue, and the bill provides a mechanism for their periodic sunset and review so that the credits can be reenacted if the legislature decides they still have value to the state. There will be a hearing on HB 306 in the House Finance Committee on Thursday, Feb. 27 at 1:30 p.m. 

You can find more information about HB 306 at http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=HB%20306&session=28

Watch Gavel to Gavel (www.360north.org ) to view these and other hearings.

For more information, contact Chris Christensen at
cschristenseniii@alaska.edu or visit www.alaska.edu/state .

February 14, 2014

Today is the 25th day of the legislative session, and the operating budget review process in the House is in full swing. Last week, President Gamble appeared before the House Finance Committee to provide an overview of the university system, including its mission, core services, and priorities; challenges and pressing issues; Shaping Alaska’s Future; and various other matters. He also discussed the FY15 UA operating budget that the governor submitted to the legislature.

Immediately following that meeting, President Gamble testified before the House’s University Budget Subcommittee, offering a similar overview of the system, and a more detailed look at the differences between the budget proposed by the Board of Regents, and the one submitted by the governor. The subcommittee will do the detail work on the university’s budget, and then send a recommendation to the House Finance Committee. A second subcommittee hearing was held earlier this week. Legislative Finance Director David Teal, UA Budget Director Michelle Rizk, and I were asked to respond to a variety of questions about the budget and other areas of interest to subcommittee members.

The subcommittee process in the House will conclude in late February, and then the full House Finance Committee will take up the budget. Representative Alan Austerman, the Co-Chair of the House Finance Committee, told the press last week that the House’s version of the operating budget will probably include less general fund money for agency operations than the budget proposed by the governor. This is disappointing news, since the governor’s budget for the university already proposed a substantial cut. 

Student Regent Courtney Enright appeared at a confirmation hearing before the House Education Committee on Wednesday, so that the committee could review her qualifications and ask her questions. Members of the Board of Regents are appointed by the governor and must have their appointments confirmed by a majority of the legislature in joint session. Regent Enright will have a similar hearing in the Senate Education Committee sometime later this session. The confirmation vote normally takes place during the final week of the session. 

Also on Wednesday, Director Gwen Holdmann and Dr. Jeremy Kasper of UAF’s Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) held a “Lunch and Learn” in the Capitol Building. The Lunch and Learn is a 60-minute presentation made during the lunch hour that is used by the university and other organizations to provide information on topics of interest to legislators and staff. Food is provided, and presentations are popular and well attended. Holdmann and Kasper spoke on “Hydrokinetics – Energy Options for Alaska’s Communities.”

Two bills of interest were heard in committee this week: HB 255, which authorizes a UA training program for unmanned aircraft operators and places certain restrictions on the use of drone aircraft by law enforcement agencies, had a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. HB 271 had its first hearing in the House Transportation Committee. That bill proposes to give UAF a special appropriation of $2,000,000 to study the feasibility of a railroad link between Fairbanks and Deadhorse.

Hearings Next Week:

On Tuesday, Feb. 18, The Senate Finance Committee will hear President Gamble provide an overview of the university’s capital budget at 9 a.m. His presentation will include a discussion of those items that are in the Board of Regents’ request, but were not included by the governor in his capital budget bill.

Also on Tuesday, the House Economic Development, Trade, and Tourism Committee will meet at 11:15 a.m. to hearDr. Helena Wisniewski, UAA Vice Provost for Research & Graduate Studies, talk about "Innovation Clusters & Economic Growth,” and Dr. Dan White, UAF Associate Vice Chancellor for Research, speak on "Commercializing UAF Innovation, a Win-Win for Alaska."

On Tuesday afternoon, the university will have its third House Budget Subcommittee hearing at 3 p.m. Chancellor Brian Rogers has been invited to speak about UAF’s combined heat and power plant upgrade and various other budget issues. Dr. Wizniewski and Dr. White will talk again on the topics listed in the preceding paragraph, and there will be a discussion of research projects and UAF’s work on unmanned aircraft systems.

On Wednesday, Feb. 19, there will be a joint meeting of the House and Senate Education Committees at 8 a.m. The members will hear a presentation from Dr. Diane Hirshberg and others on the activities and research of the Center for Alaska Education Policy Research (CAEPR) and Alaska State Policy Research Alliance (ASPRA).

Other Activities Next Week:

There will be a Lunch and Learn on Tuesday at noon. The topic is “Digital Aerial Mapping of Alaska’s Resources.” Dr. Mark Meyers, the UAF Vice Chancellor for Research, and Dayne Broderson, the Technical Services Manager at the Geographic Information Network of Alaska (GINA), will be the presenters.

Watch Gavel to Gavel ( www.360north.org ) to view these and other hearings.

 

For more information, contact Chris Christensen at
cschristenseniii@alaska.edu
or visit www.alaska.edu/state.

January 31, 2014

Today is the 11th day of the Second Session of the 28th Alaska State Legislature. The session is scheduled to end in 79 days, on April 20.

The length of regular sessions was shortened from 121 days to 90 days in 2008. There is a lot of work to get done in only 90 days, and the shorter sessions mean that legislators have less time to meet with constituents and less time to deliberate on the budgets and on the bills in committee. Committees start working at full speed during the first week.

The House Finance Committee and its budget subcommittees will be reviewing the governor’s FY15 operating budget over the next five or six weeks. The work should be finished by early March, and then the budget will head to the House floor for a vote.

A budget subcommittee will do the detailed review work on the university’s budget and send a recommendation back to the full Finance Committee. The subcommittee is composed of two House Finance Committee members (Cathy Muņoz and David Guttenberg), and five legislators who are not members of the Finance Committee. Our subcommittee members are:

Rep. Cathy Muņoz, Chair (R-Juneau; House Majority)
Rep. Eric Feige (R-Chickaloon; House Majority)
Repr. Shelley Hughes (R-Palmer; House Majority)
Rep. Benjamin Nageak (D-Barrow; House Majority)

Rep. Lora Reinbold (R-Eagle River; House Majority)
Rep. David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks; House Minority)
Rep. Andrew Josephson (D-Anchorage; House Minority)

The House starts the work on the operating budget, and the Senate Finance Committee will do much of its work after the House has passed the budget and transmitted it to the Senate for consideration. The Senate Finance Committee also has a University Budget Subcommittee to do the detail work. The subcommittee is made up of two members of the Senate Finance Committee (Anna Fairclough and Pete Kelly) and two senators who are not members of the Finance Committee. The subcommittee members are:

Sen. Anna Fairclough, Chair (R-Eagle River; Senate Majority)
Sen. Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks; Senate Majority)
Sen. Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak; Senate Majority)
Sen. Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage; Senate Minority) 

Next Week:

UA President Pat Gamble will appear before the House Finance Committee on Tuesday, February 4 at 1:30 p.m. to provide an overview of the university system and the proposed FY15 operating budget. At 3 p.m., President Gamble will appear at the first meeting of the House’s University Budget Subcommittee, to discuss the same topics.

The Coalition of Student Leaders arrives in Juneau today, and will be here through Feb. 4. The students will be meeting with many legislators to discuss university issues. Student leaders have been very effective advocates in recent years, particularly on operating budget items such as student advising.

The UAA, UAF and UAS Alumni Associations will be sponsoring an Ice Cream Social in the Beltz Committee Room on Monday, February 3 from 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. This is an annual event, and it is an opportunity for the student leaders and alumni to meet with legislators in a social setting.

Bills of Interest:

On Jan. 24, Governor Parnell introduced comprehensive education bills in the House (HB 278) and the Senate (SB139). The bills were identical when they were introduced, but they will each take on distinctive qualities as they are amended in the committees of their respective houses. While the focus of the bills is K-12, there are many parts that directly or indirectly impact the university, such as sections on dual credit and on TVEP. SB 139 has been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee on Monday, Feb. 3 at 8 a.m. You can look up the bills and follow their progress on the legislative information web page. ( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/start.asp ).

Upcoming Hearings:

The House’s University Budget Subcommittee has additional meetings scheduled on Feb. 11, 18, and 25 at 3 p.m. Testimony is by invitation only. Opportunities for public testimony will probably come in early March, and we will post that information on the State Relations web page ( www.alaska.edu/state ) as well as share it in The Capitol Report.

Watch Gavel to Gavel ( www.360north.org ) to view these and other hearings. Also see the legislative information web page ( http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/start.asp ).

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For more information, contact Chris Christensen at cschristenseniii@alaska.edu or visit www.alaska.edu/state .

January 21, 2014

By Chris Christensen, associate vice president for state relations

The Second Session of the 28th Alaska State Legislature is under way in Juneau, and the 90- day session will be a difficult one. This will be the 31st session I’ve spent working with the legislature, and my third year representing the university. I know the legislature and its members well, but each year brings new challenges and unexpected complications. One thing I have learned in my time here is that there are many passionate advocates for the university, people who are willing to devote their time and energy to advancing its interests. You made my first two sessions with UA much easier, and I look forward to working with all of you again this year. 

Over the course of the legislative session, you will receive this newsletter periodically to keep you up to date on what is happening in the Capitol. When there are important hearings or opportunities to actively engage in advocacy for the university, we’ll also post it on the UA State Relations webpage: www.alaska.edu/state

Our most important task each session is advocating for the university’s operating and capital budgets. That job has been made more difficult this year by the dramatic reduction in oil revenues received by the state. Between FY13 and FY15, the state’s unrestricted general fund revenues are projected to decline from $6.9 billion to $4.5 billion, a 35 percent reduction. This decline means that during the current fiscal year, FY14, the state will run an estimated $2 billion deficit. When the legislature puts together the FY15 budget this session, it will attempt to lower next year’s expected deficit by reducing state spending.

Governor Parnell took the first step to implement a reduction in state spending when he announced his FY15 budget on December 12. That budget proposes that the state spend 18.4 percent less in general fund dollars than it is spending during the current year. For the university operating budget, the governor proposes a $14.9 million reduction from the current year’s funding level, but he also proposes adding $5.3 million to partially cover new expenses, such as the scheduled employee pay raises and operating costs for new buildings that are due to open this year. UA’s net cut in the governor’s operating budget is $9.6 million below the FY14 level. ( www.alaska.edu/files/state/FY15-Budget-Data-Summary-Final.pdf )

In his capital budget, Governor Parnell proposes that UA receive $37.5 million for deferred maintenance, and $10 million in unrestricted general funds for continuing construction of the UAA and UAF engineering buildings. We are grateful to the governor for his support of those items. Unfortunately, there is no funding in his budget for the upgrade of the UAF combined heat and power plant ($195 million), for the balance needed to actually complete the engineering buildings ($68.9 million, in addition to the proposed $10 million), or for any of the research projects that benefit Alaska.

The House and Senate Finance Committees are already starting to work on the operating budget. University President Pat Gamble has been asked to appear before the House Finance Committee on Tuesday, February 4 between 1:30 –3:30 to give committee members an overview on UA and its operating budget. We will keep you updated as budget hearings are added to the schedule. 

Here are some handy reference guides for your information and use. We will also post them on the State Relations webpage for easy access:

A roster of legislative members with contact information:
w3.legis.state.ak.us/docs/pdf/whoswho.pdf

Legislators by district:
w3.legis.state.ak.us/docs/pdf/DISTRICTS.pdf

Committee assignments for the 28th legislature:
www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/commbr_info.asp?session=28#hse_std_com

BASIS – A great reference tool to locate specific legislation, bill sponsors, legislative actions, and a host of other reference materials:  www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/start.asp

Thank you for supporting the University of Alaska!


This publication is produced and distributed by the State Relations office of the University of Alaska System with assistance from the UA Office of Public Affairs.

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