Legislature tackles department budgets

The Alaska Legislature will continue its march toward a state budget this week as budget subcommittees in the House of Representatives enter the final phases of their work.

After weeks of presentations and background briefings, many subcommittees are scheduled to consider budget amendments before closing out their department budgets next week.

“I think there’s a lot going on, a lot to look forward to next week,” said Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, in a talk with reporters on Friday morning.

A meeting on amendments to the Department of Administration budget is scheduled for Tuesday; Department of Labor amendments will come Wednesday; on Thursday, the departments of Corrections, Environmental Conservation, Fish and Game, Transportation, Health and Social Services have meetings on amendments; on Friday, Department of Revenue amendments will be considered.

The meetings are all part of the annual process that determines how much the state spends, and on what. Each department has a subcommittee that focuses on its budget in particular. When each subcommittee finishes its work, it passes that budget to the main budget committee. From there, the budget will go to a vote of the full House of Representatives.

Lawmakers have said their intention is to complete a budget within 90 days of the Jan. 16 start of the Legislative session, and members of the House have said their goal is to pass a budget draft to the Senate for consideration by mid-March.


University update

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen will be among the figures appearing in front of the Senate Finance Committee at 9 a.m. Tuesday as the committee considers the state of university buildings.

The state’s multibillion-dollar budget deficit means Alaska has lacked a significant capital construction and renovation budget for several years. As a result, the list of backlogged maintenance projects has grown across the state.

Tuesday’s hearing will focus on that backlog as it applies to the University of Alaska.


Net neutrality

The Senate Labor and Commerce Committee will take public testimony at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday on a bill from Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, that would require telecommunications companies to treat all internet traffic equally and not prioritize or penalize particular websites or programs that use the internet. The bill, Senate Bill 160, has been cosponsored by Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage and the chairwoman of the committee.

The House version of the bill, House Bill 314, will be heard at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday in the House Labor and Commerce Committee chaired by Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau. Public testimony will be taken in that meeting as well.


Juneau judges

A bill replacing a Juneau District Court judge with a superior court judge will have its first hearing in the House Judiciary Committee at 1 p.m. Wednesday. House Bill 298 has already passed one committee, and if approved by the judiciary committee would go to a vote of the full House.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.

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