Legislative Week in Review: Week 8

Highlights of the Week

  • All about the budget. The House Finance Committee led by Reps. Paul Seaton and Neal Foster passed the operating budget (HB 57) out of committee. Not a single amendment was accepted to reduce government spending.
  • The public remains opposed to increasing oil taxes in the face of a recession, low oil prices, and huge new discoveries on the North Slope under SB 21. Three nights of testimony provided a 2 to 1 margin for those who oppose HB 111.
  • Senate Majority’s stances for the week: oppose income tax, reduce budget considerably, implement a legitimate spending cap, and use Permanent Fund earnings wisely.
  • House Majority’s stances for the week: no more budget reductions, must changes oil taxes and implement an income tax, and gain broad access to Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve Account.

March 6, 2017

  • House Resources heard Rep. Les Gara present his oil tax bill (HB 133), which would raise taxes on the industry upwards of $200 million per year by bringing back progressivity to Alaska’s oil tax regime.
  • Senate Finance continued to analyze the three Permanent Fund POMV bills, SB 70, SB 21 and SB 26. Revenue Commissioner Hoffbeck presented on SB 26, the Governor’s legislation, and Senator Stedman presented his bill (SB 21). These bills set up a POMV draw based on the total value of the Permanent Fund over the last 5 years. The bills would set up a draw from the Earnings Reserve Account ranging from 4.5-5.25%, and would split that revenue between state services and dividends in different ways.
  • Public testimony was heard both in the Senate Finance and House Resources Committees, regarding the Permanent Fund bills and HB 111 The public remains opposed to HB 111.

March 7, 2017

  • Senate Finance advanced SB 14, the bill that would allow Uber/Lyft to operate in Alaska, out of committee and onto the floor. On the House side, the House Transportation Committee moved HB 132 (the companion bill to SB 14) out of committee.
  • House Finance began the slog of amendments on the Operating Budget/HB 57. Tammie Wilson introduced over 240 amendments, to reduce the size of state government. Not a single cost saving amendment passed. AK Headlamp wrote about the budget games here.

March 8, 2017

  • The Joint Legislative Committee held a meeting regarding legislative per diem. No action was taken to reduce the per diem rate legislators receive. During budget discussion this week, House Majority members on the Finance Committee shot down an amendment by Rep. Wilson to cut legislators per diem by 75%, and 100% for Juneau legislators.
  • Senate Finance received an in-depth analysis and comparison by Legislative Finance on the three POMV bills. A good chart, found here, was produced on this issue.
  • Alyeska Pipeline Service Company President Tom Barrett presented to House Resources, and gave his company’s position on HB 111. In the evening the Committee also took a small amount of public testimony on the bill.

March 9, 2017

  • Senate Finance introduced a new version of SB 26.
  • House Finance continued debate on amendments to the operating budget/HB 57.

March 10, 2017

  • The House Finance Committee passed the operating budget (HB 57) out of committee without a single reduction, and actually increased the budget $70 million over what Gov. Walker proposed.
  • Senate Finance moved SB 26 with considerable changes out of committee. The new bill incorporates many aspects of SB 70, including a statutory spending cap, POMV draw of 5%, and dividends of $1000 through 2020.
  • House Resources dropped a new version of HB 111, and will hold a hearing on it on March 13. The Committee also held confirmation hearings for members of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: Daniel Seamount (who is being reappointed) and former state senator Hollis French.