Alaska lawmakers confirmed the state’s $1.2 billion education budget in a brief meeting of the House-Senate budget conference committee on Thursday.
The six lawmakers on the committee needed less than five minutes to strip education funding out of the state’s omnibus budget bill, House Bill 286. On Wednesday, the House voted 31-9 in favor of a standalone education budget bill, House Bill 287.
The budget is flat-funded when compared to the current year. There are no increases or decreases.
With the education budget approved in a separate measure, there is no longer any need to have education funding in the omnibus bill, so negotiators removed it. The House had inserted the education funding into HB 286 as a precaution in case HB 287 failed.
“This is just a precautionary measure so that the people in the education community can be assured that pink slips will not go out this year,” said Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel and the lead Senate negotiator on the conference committee.
This week, the conference committee — which includes three House lawmakers and three from the Senate — has been taking tentative steps toward a compromise that combines the House’s version of HB 286 with the Senate’s version of the same spending plan.
The budget under consideration will fund state services in the fiscal year that starts July 1. The budget will include a deficit of about $2.4 billion. That hole will be filled with $700 million from the Constitutional Budget Reserve and another $1.7 billion from the Alaska Permanent Fund.
Another $1 billion will be used from the Permanent Fund to pay the annual Permanent Fund Dividend. This year’s dividend will be about $1,600 per person.
All those amounts have been agreed upon by the House and Senate.
No date has been set for the next conference committee meeting, but Hoffman said negotiations are continuing on funding for the departments of public safety, law and administration.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 523-2258.