This afternoon, reporter Peter Segall will cover a House Transportation Committee meeting that will focus on the Alaska Marine Highway System. Expect more updates.
Meeting Summary: Department of Administration’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2021 includes less money and fewer employees than last year’s budget. There are some plans for further efficiency and changes that will be discussed in more detail later this week.
Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, thanked Tshibaka for her diligence and dedication to reduced spending.
“These are the things I think Alaskans have been waiting for for a long time, and I look forward to the trickle down effect it will have on the other departments,” Vance said.
Story asked if there are data used to evaluate the traffic at Departments of Motor Vehicles, and if there is any point at which positions that were cut may be brought back.
Tshibaka said a detailed report about REAL IDs and DMVs will be coming in the future.
Brad Ewing with Office of Management and Budget is now taking over the slide show.
Some significant changes noted in the first slide in the DoA’s dFY21 budget include: an overall budget decrease and a $1.6 million increase for the office of public advocacy.
Story asked a question based on last night’s State of the State address. She asked how much financial misbehavior might be happening within the department.
“When you speculate about waste, fraud and abuse, it gets dangerous,” Tshibaka said.
She said a two-month data project that reviewed state credit card usage revealed less misuse than would have been expected, but she said next year she’ll be able to speak with much more accuracy on the subject.
Hopkins asked if a proposed Alaska Inspector General, which was also part of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s address, would be part of Tshibaka’s department.
Tshibaka said legislation that would create that position is still being drafted.
Hopkins asked about an electronic evaluation system.
“It’s very similar to the way it worked before,” Tshibaka said.
Hopkins asked if there’s both a merit-based bonus and step increase.
Tshibaka said it’s combined.
“The pilot that we’re piloting doesn’t have any money associated with it,” Tshibaka said. “It’s not part of our collective bargaining agreement, so that’s for performance feedback.”
Fields said it sounds like a great idea to make sure that annual reviews actually happen.
Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins asked for more information about automated employee onboarding included in the FY21 budget.
“Would you be able to describe the automation of employee onboarding, what that looks like from an employee and DoA point of view?” he asked.
Instead of a thick onboarding packet, Tshibaka said incoming employees would fill out one form that would feed directly into the MyAlaska web portal.
“The other challenge that we have is sometime you onboard, and then you switch a department,” Tshibaka said. “You have to onboard again.”
Under the proposed new system, that wouldn’t have to happen because it would be managed by an electronic interface.
“That’s a really helpful synopsis,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.
Department of Administration’s Fiscal Year 2021 operating budget is almost $15 million less and includes 34 fewer positions than the previous fiscal year, according to Tshibaka’s presentation.
“I think it’s a great idea to pay the bar dues,” Fields said. “I just think it’s great to look at this small-cost items that can have an impact on recruitment and retention.”
Tshibaka, in an extended metaphor, compared the state’s services to a brick wall, and the Department of Administration to mortar holding it together.
“If there was no mortar, what would happen to all those bricks,” Tshibaka said. “If we do our job really well, then the bricks look really good.”
Tshibaka said the department wants to achieve cost savings and increase efficiencies.
“Everything in the state should be operating better and faster,” she said. “We have to lead the outside-the-box thinking for everyone.”
Rep. Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage, said for a long time she’s tried to make the Department of Administration “sexy.”
“Mortar isn’t something that came to mind,” Johnston said. “You’ve done a better job than most.”
Rep. Zack Fields, D-Anchorage, asked if there are projections for how busy Department of Motor Vehicles offices will be because of REAL IDs.
Tshibaka said there will be a hearing where that matter will be addressed in depth.
Fields said he has concerns about people in Anchorage being able to get the needed IDs, let alone residents of rural Alaska.
“We will be setting up dedicated REAL ID lines soon to take that traffic separately,” Tshibaka said.
Tshibaka is now at the mic.
She said this year, the department is asking that public defender’s bar dues be included in the budget. Tshibaka said it’s hoped that will help with recruitment and retention of public defenders.
Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau, asked about the violent crimes compensation board’s potential move from Juneau to Anchorage.
“We’ve realized if we move them up to Anchorage, they’ll be able to do outreach easier, they’ll be able to do training easier,” Tshibaka said.
Rep. Grier Hopkins, D-Fairbanks, asked how many employees would be part of that move.
Tshibaka said there would be three employees affected.
Budget analyst Alexei Painter identified five key issues for the subcommittee. Those were Shared Services of Alaska and Office of Information and Technology, public broadcasting, office of public advocacy and public defender agency and the rollout of REAL IDs.
An early morning meeting on the fifth floor of the capitol meant lawmakers were running a few minutes behind for a House Administration Committee Finance Subcommittee meeting.
Like a lot of these early-in-the-session meetings, today’s meeting is focused on a budget overview for a department. In this case, it’s the Department of Administration.
Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka is on the schedule to speak.