Capitol Report - February 18, 2022

February 18, 2022

The Governor introduces an amended budget with $2.5 million for Alaska Center for Energy and Power’s (ACEP) micro nuclear reactor research

This week the governor’s amended budget was introduced with a set-aside for UAF’s Alaska Center for Energy and Power. Additionally, student leaders from around the state came to the Capitol to advocate on behalf of the university system, and UA System leadership was invited to speak on a panel about federal infrastructure spending at the annual Alaska Municipal League legislative conference.

On Monday, the governor introduced his amended FY23 operating and capital budget requests. The amended operating budget is increased by more than $27 million with an added $14.8 million in Unrestricted General Fund (UGF) spending.  The amended capital budget is increased by $19.35 million with a UGF spending increase of $3.7 million. Notably, the governor’s amended capital budget contains a $2.5 million increase for “emerging energy opportunities in Alaska.'' The proposed funds would go to the Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) at UAF to “address important gaps in our understanding of emerging energy technologies and applications for Alaska.” Specifically, the addition would allow ACEP to conduct further research on microreactors - transportable nuclear reactors. The governor is bullish on using micro nuclear reactor power in the state. In fact, the administration recently released two bills, Senate Bill 177 and House Bill 299, to remove barriers to microreactor development, including requirements for legislative land approval and agency regulations studies. Both bills had hearings this week. Listen to the hearings here and here, respectively.   

In other news, the Capitol has been full of advocacy groups this week. With the Capitol Building open to the public again, many groups from around the state are hosting fly-ins to visit with lawmakers. Notably, the University of Alaska Coalition of Student Leaders met with legislators on Monday and Tuesday this week. Students had the opportunity to meet their own representatives and advocate on behalf of the UA System’s three universities on important issues like the budget.

The Alaska Municipal League hosted its annual winter legislative conference this week. Municipal leaders from around the state were in town to hear from state agency officials, visit with legislators, and advocate for key priority issues.  University system leadership including Interim President Pat Pitney and government relations staff were invited to speak to the conference attendees during a panel on infrastructure spending. They joined representatives from the Alaska Federation of Natives, the Denali Commission, the Alaska Telecom Association and the Alaska Power Association to speak on being an “infrastructure partner” as federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funds enter the state. State Government Relations Director Hutchison and UA Interim President Pitney discussed the critical importance of developing Alaska’s workforce to meet the labor demands associated with the infrastructure bill. UAA’s Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) recently predicted that IIJA could add 14,000 jobs to Alaska’s economy. Our universities are poised to train workers in key industries such as construction and IT. 

Higher Education Investment Fund Update

The Alaska Superior Court released a decision yesterday ruling in favor of the administrations’ decision to sweep the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF) into the Constitutional Budget Reserve. The plaintiffs intend to appeal to the Supreme Court.  University system leaders have been watching the litigation closely. The decision is disappointing, however, there is legislative movement to pursue a statutory solution that would remove HEIF from being swept into the CBR entirely. Representative Josephson’s House Bill 229 continues to move through the legislature. We continue to support the efforts of Rep. Josephson and the legislature to create stability for the HEIF.

Next Week’s Calendar

Tuesday, February 22

  • 11:00 a.m. - Joint Floor Session - Annual legislative address by U.S Senator Lisa Murkowski
  • 12:00 p.m. - Lunch & Learn - Affordable, Sustainable Housing - Cold Climate Research Center

Wednesday, February 23

  • 3:30 p.m. - House Education - Senate Bill 10: “Free/reduced tuition for essential worker” / House Bill 108: “Concurrent secondary & trade school”

Thursday, February 24

  • 3:30 p.m. - Senate Community and Regional Affairs - Senate Bill 177: “Microreactors”

Friday, February 25

  • 9:00 a.m. - House University of Alaska Finance Subcommittee - Budget Closeout
  • 9:00 a.m. - House Education - House Bill 48: “Alaska Performance Scholarship; eligibility”
  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Education - Senate Bill 146: “University: textbooks/materials cost”

For more information, contact Director of State Relations for the University of Alaska System Chad Hutchison, cell 907-378-3946, email