Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, speaks during a House Finance Committee meeting to hear amendments to the operating budget at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, speaks during a House Finance Committee meeting to hear amendments to the operating budget at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Capitol Live: Budget process heating up

Live updates from inside the Capitol.

2:26 p.m.

The House Finance committee is gaveled back in from this morning.

Carpenter has proposed an which would cut school bond reimbursement funding completely, but they’re discussing an alternative amendment that would only cut that by 50 percent, rather than 100, a change of about $50 million rather than $100 million.

Cutting school bond debt reimbursement funding would raise municipal taxes, Josephson says.

“If we stop spending money that we don’t have it will be a shift to others who will also have to be fiscally responsible in choice… while we may be thinking about $250 or $500 increase in taxes at the local level, what you’re doing away with for a family of four would be $12,000 in PFD checks,” says Carpenter.

Rep. Knopp says Alaska wants a step-down approach, and this would do just that.

— Mollie Barnes

1:27 p.m.

There’s a video that’s been making the rounds on social media called “A Love Letter to Alaska.”

Written by Poet Christy NaMee Eriksen, also the owner of Juneau business Kindred Post, the video highlight “the faces of Alaskans who would actually feel the impacts of (Alaska budget) cuts.”

“When I first read Christy NaMee Eriksen’s poem I was moved by the way it exposed the overall sentiment carried by Dunleavy’s proposed budget,” said Gemini Waltz Media on YouTube, the producer and poster of the video.

“As a filmmaker, I wanted to highlight the faces of Alaskans who would actually feel the impacts of these funding cuts. Unfortunately it was all to easy to do. All I had to do was walk out of my door, and there they were. The collective spirit of Alaskans highlighted in the piece spoke to me, and I wanted to do my part to help spread this message… We hope you’ll contact your reps and give them courage. Tell them this is not the budget of an Alaskan. In Alaska, we don’t leave each other out in the cold.”

— Mollie Barnes

11:48 a.m.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is a part of a group of senators that just introduced a bill that addresses the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women.

The Not Invisible Act of 2019 is legislation aimed at addressing the crisis of missing, murdered, and trafficked Native people by engaging law enforcement, tribal leaders, federal partners, and service providers and improving coordination across federal agencies.

“Human trafficking is a horrifying reality across the state of Alaska and is disproportionately affecting our Alaska Native communities. This legislation paves the way for greater collaboration between federal agencies, law enforcement, and elected tribal officials, ensuring Alaska Natives have a voice in developing methods to end these horrible crimes. Through partnerships, coordination, and pooling resources we can turn the tide of women and girls falling victim to sex trafficking,” said Murkowski in a press release. “I am proud to work with Senator Cortez Masto to build upon our efforts to shine a spotlight and address the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and drive legislation that will help end human trafficking of our American Indian and Alaska Native populations once and for all.”

The bipartisan bill establishes an advisory committee of local, tribal and federal stakeholders to make recommendations to the Department of Interior and Department of Justice on best practices to combat the epidemic of disappearances, homicide, violent crime and trafficking of Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

Specifically, the Not Invisible Act:

  • Requires the Secretary of the Interior to designate an official within the Office of Justice Services in the Bureau of Indian Affairs to coordinate violent crime prevention efforts across federal agencies.
  • Requires the Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the Attorney General, to establish an advisory committee on violent crime composed of members including tribal, state, and local law enforcement, service providers, representatives of relevant federal agencies, tribal leaders, and survivors and family members.
  • The Committee will identify legislative, administrative, training, and staffing changes to increase reporting and prosecutions of relevant crimes.
  • The Committee will develop best practices for tribes and law enforcement to better collect and share information across systems and agencies.
  • The Committee will make recommendations to the DOI and DOJ on what more the department can do to combat violent crime.

The Not Invisible Act is supported by the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC).

— Mollie Barnes

10:24 a.m.

The majority of this meeting, which just ended for a while (they’ll come back at 1:30 p.m.), was spent on that amendment proposing to switch AIDEA to the funding source of $70 million in oil tax credits. The amendment eventually passes, after much ballyhooing and posturing. Carpenter proposed bumping that total up to $200 million, but that amendment was soundly defeated.

The crux of some of the arguments here was that pulling money from AIDEA is too much like pulling money from savings, which is a big issue this session, of course.

— Alex McCarthy

10:05 a.m.

One amendment, brought by Reps. Dan Ortiz and Andy Josephson, would draw money for tax credits from AIDEA instead of the Unrestricted General Fund. Multiple representatives speak against this, with Rep. Jennifer Johnston saying she thinks this sounds like drawing from savings — which she is committed to not voting for this session.

Carpenter speaks up again, saying he’d like to table this discussion until they hear from AIDEA. They take a brief at-ease, and just after the microphones cut off, those of us in the room can hear Rep. Tammie Wilson (co-chair of the committee) say, “We’re not tabling anything.” On the record later, Wilson says they need to move forward with this process and can’t delay any further.

— Alex McCarthy

9:48 a.m.

Rep. Ben Carpenter brought his soapbox this morning. He’s saying that businesses will not want to do business in Alaska if the state can’t get its spending under control. He repeats the phrase “fiscal responsibility” over and over, saying the key to being responsible is having the self-discipline to not spend the money the state doesn’t have.

“We must resist the urge to add spending to the gov’s budget because we’ll be doing the wrong thing for long-term growth,” Carpenter says.

— Alex McCarthy

9:45 a.m.

All members of the House Finance Committee are here and set to go. They’re going through amendments to the budget.

As they were getting set up beforehand, Rep. Kelly Merrick turned to Rep. Andy Josephson and asked, “Are you ready to rumble?” All in good fun.

— Alex McCarthy

8:45 a.m.

This morning, the House Finance Committee is getting together to continue its budget process. We’ll be at that meeting.

An interesting storyline from last night, the top public defender in the state handed in his resignation. There’s not much of an indication on why, but the word going around social media is that the governor’s office forbid him from testifying at a hearing during session.

His resignation letter is embedded below.

— Alex McCarthy

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